Louise M. Burkhart

Office: Arts & Sciences Building, Room 203
Ph: (518) 442-4706
E-mail: lburkhart@albany.edu                      Publications
Ph.D., Yale, 1986                                          Curriculum Vitae

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

Research Statement

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 most recent book is Painted Words: Nahua Catholicism, Politics, and Memory in the Atzaqualco Pictorial Catechism, co-authored with Elizabeth Hill Boone and David Tavárez (Dumbarton Oaks, 2017). This book, as well as her prize-winning 2014 article in the Hispanic American Historical Review and her Presidential Address in Ethnohistory, took a new look at pictographic catechisms, interpreting them as mid-colonial assertions of political legitimacy by Nahua elites, rather than tools of the early missionary friars. Currently she is in the early stages of a large project on Passion plays and the Inquisition in 18th-century Mexico, in collaboration with Daniel Mosquera (Union College). She is also collaborating with Abelardo de la Cruz on a monolingual Nahuatl publication of a colonial drama.