[PAST EVENT] Africana First Friday Lecture with James Padilioni

February 6, 2015
12pm - 1pm
Boswell Hall (formerly Morton Hall), Room 314
100 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
James is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in American Studies and his research focuses on the religio-aesthetics, musicology, and cosmologies of the African Diaspora, particularly Afro-Latino and African-American Catholicism, as well as the epistemology of identity construction. James also has an interest in critical jazz studies, an artifact remaining from his time spent as a jazz research intern at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. His dissertation will focus on the devotional practices of the cult of St. Martin de Porres

Scholar Robert Orsi observed that saints are always refracted through the prism of the needs and fears of the people who approach them, and as such the meanings they infer and the patterns of devotion they generate take on protean forms. This research focuses on refractions of St. Martin de Porres made visible through popular religious practice in contemporary Atlanta. Martin de Porres, a 17th-century Peruvian lay brother, became the first saint of African descent from the Americas upon his 1962 canonization as the patron of social and racial justice. He maintains a vibrant cult of devotion throughout material networks realizing the Catholic imaginary, having particular resonance among Afro-Latino and African-Americans. I locate visions of Martin within three communities of devotion identified through ethnographic fieldwork: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, a Black congregation in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward; Mision Catolica Nuestra Senora de las Americas, a Spanish-speaking parish in the suburb of Lilburn; and numerous botanicas featuring products indexing a spectrum of cosmologies ranging from "folk" Catholicism to West/Central African and Native American herbal/candle magic such as curanderismo, espiritismo, and Santeria.

Like the refulgence of sunlight, Martin's consciousness shines omnidirectionally, making him a border-crossing, deterritorializing figure who seeps through the fictive boundaries between sacred and secular, dogmatic and popular Catholicism, and disrupts the linear trajectory and secularizing narrative of late modernity. I contend that Martin's personhood is fractal, with each refraction - the articulating and contestatory devotions constellating around his figure - forming a site through which collective memory is mobilized to hold stable and make intelligible the lifeworlds of racialized others as they creatively weave threads of pious perseverance through the dynamic cultural tapestry of the United States.

[[ksperling, Kristen Sperling]]