I am currently a doctoral candidate in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures. I am interested in one of the most consistent questions we experience as human beings. That is, what does it mean to be human? How can we test the limits of our bodies, and what is outside them, in order to understand more about the nature of our world? As a colonialist, I see these questions particularly present in how people navigated their experiences with religious iconography in Mexico's mid-colonial period.
Graduate perspective: Beth Boyd
My dissertation investigates these questions through two of the earliest images Spanish forces used as part of their colonizing project: the Marian Virgen de Remedios (the Virgin of Remedies) and San Miguel Arcángel (St. Michael the Archangel). Religious images were an integral part of establishing control in Spain's conquest and colonization of the Americas; those who had access to these objects presented particular authority in the civic, economic, and social lives of their communities. I concentrate on the origin narratives that explain how these two images became influential in colonial devotional practice, paying particular attention to the ways in which the persons in these narratives relied on bodily senses (e.g. sight, touch, and taste) to legitimize their experiences to local authorities. As the key observers in these narratives were often young, indigenous believers with limited social mobility, I explore how the body became a site through which witnesses could ultimately advocate for imperial recognition.
Scholars have long noted that the impact of colonialism does not end with the formal withdrawal of colonizing forces. I have been working over the past year in conjunction with Drs. Kathleen Myers, Alejandro Mejías-López, Pablo García Loaeza (West Virginia University), and Cara Kinnally (Purdue University) to further explore how Mexico's colonial past continues to speak through the literature, films, television series, and social media that permeate our lives today. In this project I build on my dissertation work, looking at how users reflect on the colonial inheritances of Mexico's religious iconography and the Catholic Church through platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. Reading Coloniality in Mexico through a Transhistoric, Transgeographic Lens has been presented at Indiana University, as a panel at the 2019 Latin American Studies Association, and has additionally received a grant for an invited presentation at Purdue University. I remain indebted to our department for its continued support as both projects near completion.