Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Carolina Hall 125
My work focuses on European and indigneous encounters in the contact zones of the Americas. I am interested in the ways in which missionaries, soldiers, and native converts drew upon both Christian traditions and local experience to make sense of violent, often tragic colonial encounters. More specifically, I study discourses of sacrifice and suffering in the Catholic missionary enterprises of colonial Latin America. My current book project, A Spectacle Before the World: Convert Suffering and Sacrificial Display in the Jesuit Missions of Northern New Spain, asks why tales of persecution became so prevalent in the Spanish borderlands and describes how both missionaries and converts sanctified their suffering through martyrological discourses using material, textual, and visual idioms. More broadly, I correlate these colonial situations to longer genealogies of redemptive death in sacred and secular discourse. In what ways do historical and contemporary communities draw on the traditions of Christian sacrifice to memorialize their dead? Where do older practices associated with martyrs – relics, mausoleums, holy days, memorials, or martyrologies – turn up in modern forms? And, what role might such idioms and rituals play in the making of peace and war today? As such, my research contributes to current discussions in Religious Studies over the fraught relationship between memory, suffering, and cycles of violence. My second project will look at 20th century mission memorials, focusing on the bi-national search for, recovery, and display of Father Eusebio Kino’s body in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. It connects the longue durée of ancient martyrological practices to current trans-border movements, mission tours, immigration battles, beatification campaigns, and the annual Feast of San Francisco, celebrated by Mexicans, Americans, and O’odham pilgrims in Magdalena, Sonora. I also maintain research interests in contemporary Latina/o religion and have published work on the 20thcentury borderlands healer Teresa Urrea.