Candidate statement for 2018 ACHA Election
I am grateful to be a candidate for the ACHA Executive Council. During my first ACHA conference, as a graduate student, I was pleased to encounter an engaging and inviting group of scholars focused on the ins and outs of research on Catholicism. In my current position as Assistant Professor of Religion at Springfield College (MA), I am the only religion faculty on campus and I teach in an interdisciplinary Humanities department. This role is constantly showing me the value of interdisciplinary work for my own research and teaching while also reminding me of the value of a scholarly association capable of deep dives into Catholic Studies.
My research examines the intersections of religious subjectivity, contemporary Catholicism, and the nature of prayer. My work—most recently, Millennial Missionaries: How a Group of Young Adult Catholics is Making Catholicism Cool (Oxford 2019)—relies on ethnography. But, of course, studying Catholics quickly draws me into questions about the history of particular prayer practices and the sociological landscape of young adults, as well as to questions about embodiment, gender, and performance. I am happy to move within and among several fields, as do many members of the ACHA.
Because of the interdependent nature of so much of our scholarship, the ACHA is well-poised to participate in the reimagining of Catholic Studies. As a member of the executive council, I would support creative development of and envisioning for the future of our intellectual community. If elected, I would work on two visions for ACHA. First, I value the intentional and thoughtful efforts of the organization to reach out to scholars in many fields. Our field of Catholic Studies is enriched through a wide range of intellectual conversations. Cultivating the ACHA’s capacity to host these conversations is important to me. I would actively participate in and further this initiative.
Second, I claim Catholic Studies as a scholarly base because I have found that it allows for valuable analysis of contradictions within and around Catholicism. From this vantage point, Catholicism is stitched into the fabric of U.S. history, but also somehow outside of it. Catholicism is able to challenge some dominant narratives while also participating in others. To study Catholics is to study individuals and intimate details, but also an institution with an oppressive power structure. Catholics perpetuate racism, but also do justice work. This ability to think critically about the contradictions is at the heart of Catholic Studies. If elected, I would assist our association in having uneasy and complicated conversations about our inheritances.
Finally, if elected, I would also engage with efforts to support structural change within the field, including work on behalf of contingent faculty, graduate students, and underrepresented communities within and around Catholic Studies. I am also committed to helping our association better reflect the diversity of our subfield. As the ACHA celebrates its centennial in 2019, I would look forward to building on that strong history.
Thank you for your consideration!