Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada ’13: Brooklyn Catholicism & the Ghosts of Gentrification

Mar 22, 5:00 pm–6:30 pm

Taylor 203

This lecture explores how Catholic devotion offers potent resources for engaging the past and imagining a collective future. It tells the story of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, an Italian American Catholic community that stages dramatic devotional rituals in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Most notably, men in the community lift a seventy-foot-tall, four-ton tower called the giglio through the streets in honor of their patron saint. Through public feats of strength and backstage practices of devotion, men imagine themselves as they key to Catholic resilience in this corner of Brooklyn. This talk will reveal how religion and gender shape how urban communities narrate, resist, and engage with gentrification and how generational memory and neighborhood identity are felt in and through the body.  

Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada ’13, a religion major while at Vassar, is Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College where she holds the Marlene Crandell Francis Chair in the Humanities. She is an ethnographer and historian of religion in the Americas and particularly specializes in Catholicism, materiality, and the body. She is the author of Lifeblood of the Parish: Men and Catholic Devotion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (NYU Press, 2020). She is editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief and co-chair of the Men, Masculinities, and Religion unit at the AAR. She was chosen as one of the Young Scholars in American Religion at IUPUI’s Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture. She received her PhD in religion from Princeton University.

Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada stands in front of a colorful wall mural.
Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada ’13