Michelle Molina

J. Michelle Molina (PhD, University of Chicago, 2004) is the John W. and Rosemary Croghan Associate Professor of Catholic Studies at Northwestern University. She studies religion and colonial expansion (and contraction) through the lens of the Society of Jesus, with an emphasis on the Spanish Americas. Her first book, To Overcome Oneself: The Jesuit Ethic and the Spirit of Global Expansion (University of California Press, 2013) examines the impact that the Jesuit program of radical self-reflexivity had on the formation of early modern selves in Europe and New Spain. She offers a novel retelling of the emergence of the Western concept of a “modern self” by demonstrating how the struggle to forge and overcome an embodied sense of self was enmeshed in early modern Catholic missionary expansion. Her new book project explores the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from the Spanish Americas in 1767 and the efforts of the ex-Jesuits to "collect themselves" while living in exile in Italy.

Posts by Michelle Molina:

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Fluid indigeneity: Indians, Catholicism, and Spanish law in the mutable Americas

Stand With Standing Rock Nov 11-15 2016 | Image via Flickr user Leslie PetersonIn this forum, “indigeneity” faces off against European “settler colonialism.” If the twenty-first century mode of conceptualizing indigenous resistance to dominant forms of settler power is primarily construed via claims to the land’s sacrality and traditional ritual relationships to it, then the history of the “Indians” of the Spanish Americas appears strange indeed. This will be no surprise to scholars of the colonial Spanish Americas, whose history never fits a model that, implied or stated, is the history of British imperial expansion.

This essay all too briefly sketches a history of indigeneity in which Catholic actors made excellent use of the Spanish legal system to negotiate a cultural framework that was hierarchical yet ethnically fluid. Their experiences and strategies fall athwart the dominant narrative of racial “fixity” that is the hallmark of the very peculiar history of US race relations, a template whose export erases the heterogeneity of experiences across the hemisphere.

Read the rest of Fluid indigeneity: Indians, Catholicism, and Spanish law in the mutable Americas.