Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Grey Gundaker

Committee Member

Hannah Rosen

Committee Member

Richard L Turits

Committee Member

Susan V Webster

Committee Member

Yvonne P Chireau


"Performative Circulations of St. Martín de Porres in the African Diaspora" examines the significance of the first American Catholic saint of African descent, the Peruvian friar Martín de Porres (1579-1639), through several case studies that track iconographic circulations and ritual-performative restagings of Martín across the African Diaspora between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries. I approach Martín de Porres as both an historical figure and a figure of repetition and re-figuration in Black Diasporic cultures. Martín's material life and the diffusion of his cult of devotion following his death form a prism for interrogating the (re)formations of Diasporic Catholicism, when the impositions of chattel slavery and capitalism catalyzed a repertoire of practices including networking and ethical affiliation, resource circulation, project mobilization, and collective memory work within communities of enslaved Africans and their descendants. I place this research solidly within an African Diasporic framework that views African-descendant populations as differentiated but interrelated via "hidden" patterns of memory, affect, aesthetic, kinesthetic, and cultural connection. Though sometimes these patterns are hidden from view to those outside the community, they are always sensible to those "in the know." I flesh out Martín de Porres as a cultural site and emblem of spiritual power collectively worked out by Afro-Anglo and Afro-Latina/o communities owing to mutual recognition of their entangled histories. "Performative Circulations of St. Martín de Porres in the African Diaspora" highlights the creative ways Diasporic practitioners have appropriated Catholic resources in their quests to generate meaningfulness out of the fragments of the Middle Passage across the longue durée of life in the African Americas. This work contributes to the understanding of how African Diasporic communities make use of ritual performance to construct memory, animate everyday politics, and populate integrated social worlds that span spiritual and material planes, returning the potentiality of the divine to those most-marginalized on Earth.




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