Embodying the Sacred

Women Mystics in Seventeenth-Century Lima

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: December 2017

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > Latin American History, Religious Studies

In seventeenth-century Lima, pious Catholic women gained profound theological understanding and enacted expressions of spiritual devotion by engaging with a wide range of sacred texts and objects, as well as with one another, their families, and ecclesiastical authorities. In Embodying the Sacred, Nancy E. van Deusen considers how women created and navigated a spiritual existence within the colonial city's complex social milieu. Through close readings of diverse primary sources, van Deusen shows that these women recognized the divine—or were objectified as conduits of holiness—in innovative and powerful ways: dressing a religious statue, performing charitable acts, sharing interiorized spiritual visions, constructing autobiographical texts, or offering their hair or fingernails to disciples as living relics. In these manifestations of piety, each of these women transcended the limited outlets available to them for expressing and enacting their faith in colonial Lima, and each transformed early modern Catholicism in meaningful ways.


"Important reading for those interested in women’s expressions of devotion in colonial Lima and modes of theorizing spiritual practices more generally. . . . Particularly valuable for giving voice (and body) to female figures and their devotional models." — Gabrielle Greenlee, H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews

"Nancy Van Deusen offers a suggestive and rewarding path to analyze how women felt and embodied their relation to God and the divine in seventeenth-century Lima. . . . This work is a notable contribution to understanding the complexities of women’s spirituality." — Asunción Lavrin, Catholic Historical Review

"This is a powerful monograph that creatively embraces the fragmentary and contradictory texts and objects that mystical women left behind." — Karen B. Graubart, American Historical Review

"Van Deusen is deft at uncovering fascinating and little-known women whose lives reveal a spectrum of behaviors, beliefs, and activities that shed new light on early modern devotional practices." — Erin Kathleen Rowe, HAHR

“Nancy E. van Deusen conjures the vibrant confessional world of Lima while conveying an extremely textured sense of women’s lives, down to the feeling of cloth and the frisson of hair and bone and blood. Beautifully written, Embodying the Sacred models a women’s history that does not make, or require, a false choice between representation and the lived experience of early modern women. This is an important book for anyone in women, gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, regardless of time and place. A fabulous read.” — Antoinette Burton, author of Africa in the Indian Imagination: Race and the Politics of Postcolonial Citation

“No one makes colonial Spanish American spirituality as material—in all senses of the word— as does Nancy E. van Deusen. The book reanimates Lima's religiously devoted female inhabitants from spiritual autobiographies, fragmentary petitions, and beatification records: women who transmitted a gendered, colonial Catholic theology. The result is a critical intervention in the history of gender and religion, and a master class on how to read things in the past.” — Bianca Premo, author of The Enlightenment on Trial: Ordinary Litigants and Colonialism in the Spanish Empire


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nancy E. van Deusen is Professor of History at Queen’s University; author of Global Indios: The Indigenous Struggle for Justice in Sixteenth-Century Spain, also published by Duke University Press, and Between the Sacred and the Worldly: The Institutional and Cultural Practice of Recogimiento in Colonial Lima; and editor of The Souls of Purgatory: The Spiritual Diary of a Seventeenth-Century Afro-Peruvian Mystic, Ursula de Jesús.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
Part I. Material and Immaterial Embodiment
1. Rosa de Lima and the Imitatio Morum  23
2. Reading the Body: Mystical Theology and Spiritual Actualization in Early Seventeenth-Century Lima  47
3. Living in an (Im)Material World: Ángla de Carranza as a Reliquary  71
Part II. The Relational Self
4. Carrying the Cross of Christ: Donadas in Seventeenth-Century Lima  95
5. María Jacinta Montoya, Nicolás de Ayllón, and the Unmaking of an Indian Saint in Late Seventeenth-Century Peru  117
6. Amparada de mi libertad: Josefa Portocarrero Laso de la Vega and the Meaning of Free Will  143
Conclusion  167
Notes  175
Bibliography  231
Index  259
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6995-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6989-9
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