¡Presente! Political Theology at the Gates of Ft. Benning

Doctoral Dissertation


What does it mean politically, morally and theologically to claim that the dead are presente? Responding to this question, the following dissertation constructs a messianic political theology of the resurrected dead through an extended case study of the School of the Americas Watch. Currently one of the longest running nonviolent movements for social change in the United States, this movement has called for the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC, a training facility for Latin American military and police officers, and a fundamental change in US foreign policy. The movement has been centered on an annual protest liturgy that names those killed by graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC and claims them as ¡presente!

This dissertation explores the political, moral and theological significance of this claim, a claim that draws upon a creedal affirmation of a belief in and hope for the resurrection. Through the course of this study I construct a political theology that coordinates the dynamics of messianism, liturgy and practical reason. I argue that the performance of the messianic claim in the ¡presente! litany generates obligations between the living and the dead. These obligations underdetermine the actions that follow, however, and therefore require practical reasoning as activists discern how to faithfully enact effective political action. Thus, the need for practical reason remains, even as the development of that practical reason is fundamentally conditioned by the messianism of the liturgy.

Each chapter examines a different dilemma that SOA Watch activists face and examines how the coordination of these three dynamics impacts that dilemma. These include the use of liturgy as a repertoire of contentious politics (chapter 2); the building of nonviolent coalitions across differences of race, religion, class and citizenship (chapter 3); the transgression, affirmation, and appropriation of the law (chapter 4); and the function of exemplarity and charisma to motivate movement involvement (chapter 5). While each of these chapters draw upon empirical materials, my goal is ultimately constructive and I conclude by gesturing toward the possibilities enabled by a messianic political theology rooted in the resurrected presence of the dead.


Attribute NameValues
Alternate Title
  • ¡Presente!

Author Kyle Lambelet
Contributor Gerald McKenny, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Peace Studies
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2017-04-05

Submission Date 2017-04-07
  • strategic nonviolence

  • political theology

  • ethics of war and peace

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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