Napolitano, “Francis, a Criollo Pope”

Napolitano, Valentina. 2019. “Francis, a Criollo Pope.” Religion and Society 10(1):63-80.

Abstract: This article explores the tension between Pope Francis as a ‘trickster’ and as a much-needed reformer of the Catholic Church at large. He is an exemplar of the longue durée of an embodied ‘ Atlantic Return’ from the Americas to the ‘heart’ of Catholicism (Rome and the Vatican), with its ambivalent, racialized history. Through the mobilization of material religion, sensuous mediations, and the case of the Lampedusa crosses in particular, I engage with an anthropological analysis of Francis as a Criollo and the first-ever Jesuit pope. Examining Francis’s papacy overlapping racial and ethico-political dimensions, I identify coordinates around which the rhetorical, affective, and charismatic force of Francis as a Criollo has been actualized-between, most crucially, proximity and distance, as well as pastoral versus theological impulses. This article advances an understanding of Francis that emerges from a study of the conjuncture of affective fields, political theology, racialized aesthetics, and mediatic interface.

Napolitano, The Atlantic Return and the Payback of Evangelization

Napolitano, Valentina. 2013. The Atlantic Return and the Payback of Evangelization. Religion and Gender 3(2):207-221.

Abstract: This article explores Catholic, transnational Latin American migration to Rome as a gendered and ethnicized Atlantic Return, which is figured as a source of ‘new blood’ that fortifies the Catholic Church but which also profoundly unsettles it. I analyze this Atlantic Return as an angle on the affective force of history in critical relation to two main sources: Diego Von Vacano’s reading of the work of Bartolomeo de las Casas, a 16th-century Spanish Dominican friar; and to Nelson Maldonado-Torres’ notion of the ‘coloniality of being’ which he suggests has operated in Atlantic relations as enduring and present forms of racial de-humanization. In his view this latter can be counterbalanced by embracing an economy of the gift understood as gendered. However, I argue that in the light of a contemporary payback of evangelization related to the original ‘gift of faith’ to the Americas, this economy of the gift is less liberatory than Maldonado-Torres imagines, and instead part of a polyfaceted reproduction of a postsecular neoliberal affective, and gendered labour regime.