January 2020: Jesuit Studies Presentations at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting

The 134th annual meeting of the American Historical Association (January 3–6 in New York, NY) features the following panels and presentations, among others, related to the field of Jesuit Studies:


Panel: Transnational Ties of Jesuits in the United States (link)

Chair: Kelly L. Schmidt, Loyola University Chicago


“Reclaiming Catholics: The Image of the Jesuit in American Newspapers during the Revolutionary Era,” by William Harrison Taylor, Alabama State University

“‘Without Slaves and without Assassins’: Transnational Jesuits and the Challenges of Race and Slavery in Antebellum Cincinnati and the Missouri Province,” by Kelly L. Schmidt, Loyola University Chicago

“‘To Carry Christianity and European Civilization into the Far-Off Orient’: The Catholic Roots of US Colonial Knowledge in the Philippines,” by Gregg French, Acadia University

Comment: Kyle B. Roberts, Loyola University Chicago



Panel: The Qing Version of History: Methodological and Thematic Innovation in Historiography, 1636–1800


“Thinking about Qing Dynasty Local Gazetteers through Jesuit Related Records,” by Huiyi Wu, Needham Research Institute and Centre d’études sur la Chine Moderne et Contemporaine (link)



Panel: Imperial Performances: The Sensory History of Missions in Colonial New Spain


“Jesuit and Native Preaching in Northwestern New Spain,” by Jason Dyck, Western University (link)



Panel: The Postcolonized Historian and the Global South: Reflections on South Asia and Latin America


“What Mexico Can Teach Us about Hinduism,” by Ananya Chakravarti, Georgetown University (link)

— Conceptions of Hinduism have largely conformed to a surprisingly persistent paradigm that bifurcates it into two strands: a supralocal “tradition,” overwhelmingly associated with brahminism, and the fragmentary, particular and “local” forms of religiosity. The modern genealogy of this paradigm can be traced to the application of Robert Redfield’s thesis regarding great and little traditions, based on his fieldwork in Mexico, to the South Asian case. Since the Redfield thesis came to be rejected in the very site of its first articulation, a careful examination of the evolution of Mexican historical anthropology offers lessons for South Asianists on how to think their way out of this paradigm. In this light, I argue that reconceptualizing the study of Hindiusm based on advances in Latin American anthropology holds great methodological promise, particularly with regard to reorienting our spatial frameworks in analyzing Hinduism. I will present a demonstration of such a method using the French Jesuit Etienne de la Croix’s Discurso sobre a vida do Apostolo Sam Pedro [Discourse on the life of the Apostle Saint Peter], first published in 1629. This text, composed in Marathi for the consumption of local converts in Portuguese Salcete, is largely devoted to a refutation (refutatio/qhandanna) of “the errors of the gentiles.” It thus provides a remarkable account of the cosmological landscape of Salcete, including beliefs and practices that existed outside brahminical religion that are often invisible in the archives of South Asian religion in this period. Such an archival resource, which eschews the imposition of the binary and arbitrary framework of great and little traditions upon Goan cosmology, prompts a mode of understanding Hinduism beyond the dichotomous view that prevails in the field. Moreover, viewed in this theoretical light, the text allows us to see the spatial networks that subtend and maintain Hindu “tradition” in new ways.



Panel: Forging a Catholic Nation amidst a Secular State: Catholic Mobilization and Contentious Politics in 20th-Century Mexico


CristerosSinarquistas, and Sedevacantistas: Conflict and Convergence in Mexico’s Catholic Right during the Cold War,” by Luis Herran Avila, University of New Mexico (link)

— During Mexico’s Cold War, Conservative Catholics saw a window of opportunity to rekindle past grievances with the postrevolutionary state, and push back against Leftist influence, while also targeting the “enemies within.” As they grappled with the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council and its calls for religious tolerance and a reassessment of Catholic social doctrine, traditionalist and conservative sectors of the clergy and a number of lay organizations mobilized against the threat of “progressivism.” Yet, their internal debates and splits were equally important in shaping their political actions and perceptions. This paper examines these debates and tensions within the post-Cristero Catholic Right, and the ways in which traditionalist attacks against “progressivism” during the sixties and seventies reveal a field of contention within the Catholic Right, and within Mexican and global Catholicism more broadly. This paper argues that this critical Cold War and Post-Vatican II juncture exacerbated old debates about the meanings of Catholic social thought, rather than effectively uniting Mexican Catholics under one platform. More specifically, the paper scrutinizes the debates between former Cristero activist and leader of the Sinarquista movement, Salvador Abascal, and Fr. Joaquín Sáenz Arriaga, a traditionalist Jesuit that reached global fame for attacking the progressive positions of Pope Paul VI, and questioning his legitimacy as the Vicar of Christ. Moving beyond their theological tone and seemingly elite character, these debates reveal a contentious plurality within the Right, which needs to be acknowledged and studied to better understand how these actors acted in and reacted to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing world.



Panel: Environmental Humanities and the Andean Mountain Range: Science, Geography, and Climate


“The Climate of Idolatry: Drought and Environmental Knowledge in the 17th-Century Andes,” by Javier Puente, Smith College (link)

— After more than half a century of colonial domination and evangelization, Jesuit priest Pablo Joseph de Arriaga condemned the endurance of “fables, rites, and ceremonies” among the indios of Lima’s archbishopric. Arriaga traveled throughout the sierra of Lima, compiling information on the ídolos, huacas, sacrificios, and fiestas held by indios as well as the roles of ministros and sacerdotes of idolatrous rites. Idolatry in Lima’s highlands included the well-known worshipping of the Punchao (Sun), the Quilla (Moon), the Mamacocha (Sea), and the Mamapacha (Earth). Arriaga’s report also included information on water-related rituals as important as those associated with major deities. In parallel with the adoration of the Sun and the Moon, indios worship “a los puquios, que son los manantiales y fuentes […] pidiéndoles que no se sequen” and “a los ríos […] les piden hablando con ellos que les dejen passar, y no les lleven.” In an agrarian world struck by droughts and floods, ritually expressing the possession of knowledge about the environment and water cycles was an essential social feature of everyday life. This presentation brings back the chronicles of extirpación de idolatrías under the light of modern climate knowledge. Lima’s highlands have been identified as one of the most environmentally vulnerable regions to droughts and floods, sequías and huaicos. The verticality of these provinces, the scarce vegetation on the central Andean western flanks, and the proliferation of inactive river basins provide geophysical foundations for environmental disasters. During the seventeenth century, in times of cultural uncertainties and constant agrarian distress, hechiceros’ capacity of foretelling weather conditions and anticipating agrarian production nourished social prestige and religious power. This presentation reintroduces colonial hechiceros, yachanis, camascas as ritual specialists, whose presence reveal endurance of mastering environmental knowledge as source of distinctive sociopolitical roles within indigenous communities in colonial times.


To learn more about the AHA and its 2020 annual meeting, please visit: https://www.historians.org/annual-meeting/program

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