an Inclusive Narrative:
A Call for Interdisciplinarity and Ethnographic
Reflexivity in Catholic Studies
I am a non-Catholic anthropologist of religion who, until recently, has worked primarily within Mexican American Catholic communities in the Southwest, West, and Midwest. In this essay, I raise some questions and concerns that have come up for me as an ethnographer who focuses on lived Christianities in the United States. I continue to work with Mexican American Catholics and have broadened out my scope of inquiry to include Anglo American Catholics and Protestants of a variety of traditions, and I am convinced that the field of Catholic Studies can learn much from histories and ethnographies of Spanish-speaking U.S. Catholics. I am also convinced that studies of U.S. Hispanics must be interwoven with the histories of U.S. Catholicism and U.S. Christianity more broadly. It is possible to reflect the uniqueness and richness of Hispanic lived religion, but it must be interwoven with others’ histories in order to reflect common humanity and experience. U.S. Hispanic Catholic history is part of U.S. Catholic history as well as American Christian history. The risk of separating out U.S. Hispanic Catholic history from the larger narratives is that we exoticize and romanticize it, making it seem other and foreign to what other U.S. Catholics have experienced. We also risk trivializing U.S. Hispanic Catholics if we relegate their experiences to a separate chapter, thus denying universalism of experience.
Since the 1980s, the American Catholic landscape has been changing in unprecedented ways as a result of influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The field of Catholic Studies needs to figure out how to incorporate these new and not-so-new migrants and their stories and voices into the broader narratives of American Christian history and life so that they are not relegated to the margins. A growing body of literature