Louise M. Burkhart
Interests: Ethnohistory/Historical ethnography; colonialism and evangelization; symbolic, interpretive, and postmodern anthropology; Mesoamerican religions (pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary); textual analysis; Mesoamerican history and ethnology; Native North American and Mesoamerican literatures; Nahuatl catechistic and devotional literature; folklore, folk narrative, fairy tales; Nahuatl language; and pre-Columbian and Indo-Christian art.
Areas: Mesoamerica, North America
Professor Burkhart investigates the ways in which indigenous Mexicans experienced, engaged with, and manipulated the Christian texts and teachings introduced under Spanish colonial rule. She works primarily with materials in the Nahuatl (Aztec) language, often produced by literate native people working under varying degrees of priestly supervision. These materials complicate notions of "conversion" or "syncretism" by documenting the varied, sophisticated, and often subtly nativistic innovations that characterized new, indigenous Christianities. Her largest body of work deals with Nahuatl religious theater, a rich and diverse genre including morality plays, Passion plays, stagings of saints' legends and other biblical stories, and adaptations of Spanish Baroque dramas. Other research foci include the collision between Roman Catholic and indigenous moral systems, and the development of native people's devotion to the Virgin Mary. Her latest research examines pictographic inscriptions of Nahuatl-language Christian doctrine. This work debunks the conventional view of these texts (known as Testerian manuscripts) as early missionary tools, arguing that later-colonial native elites invented these new forms of writing for the purpose of political legitimation.
Jointly appointed to the Department of Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies