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I study the religious culture of the early modern Catholic world, with particular emphasis on the Spanish monarchy.
My current research is a monograph entitled Black Saints in Early Modern Global Catholicism.
It tells the story of the black saints Ifigenia, Elesban, Benedict of Palermo, and Antonio de Noto, and examines Catholicism as a global religion, drawing together strands of the story from Sicily, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Central Africa, and Peru. Black Saints examines visual culture along with devotional texts and looks at transmission within the larger context of the global church, not just in one region. It centers on baptized Africans as crucial contributors to a circuit of global Catholic belief and practice. Moreover, it ties the spread of cults of black saints to the most pressing concerns facing the early modern Church – institutional reform; overseas missionary endeavors; the divine meaning of color difference; and evangelizing to enslaved populations. Black Saints tells a broad and ambitious story that sheds new light on the development of racism and the circulation of ideas and objects in a globalizing era.
“After Death Her Face Turned White: Blackness and Sanctity in the Early Modern Hispanic World,” American Historical Review, Vol. 121, no. 3 (June 2016): 726-754.
“Visualizing Black Sanctity in Early Modern Iberia.” Invited contribution to: Envisioning Others: Race, Color, and the Visual in Iberia and Latin America, edited by Pamela Patton. Leiden: Brill, 2016.
This project has received support from American Council of Learned Societies, American Philosophical Society, Council for American Overseas Research Centers, NEH, and the Institute for Advanced Study, where I will be a member in the AY 2017-2018.
My book, Saint and Nation: Santiago, Teresa of Avila, and Plural Identities in Early Modern Spain, offers a much-needed account of national patron sainthood in early modern Europe. It assesses the crucial role that sanctity played in the symbolic representation of the nation through analysis of an extended case study—the controversy that arose in early 17th-century Spain when St. Teresa of Avila was elevated to co-patron saint alongside the traditional patron, Santiago. The fiscal burdens and moral complications of empire, along with the changing political situation in Europe, created instability of identity and a general crisis amongst contemporary Castilians. I demonstrate that the battle between the saints reveals how understandings of the nation were expressed and experienced by monarch and town, center and periphery.