“Loca con sombrilla” © Lowell Fiet, 2007, all rights reserved by the artist

My research revolves around the interactions of religion, ethnography, gender and sexuality studies, and Black Atlantic theory and literature. Specifically,  my dissertation project is centered on la loca, a character who appears in the Puerto Rican religious celebration called la fiesta de Santiago (“the feast of St. James”). While the celebration dates back to the ninth-century with the Catholic defeat of Moors in southern Spain, its iteration in Puerto Rico dates to the middle part of the nineteenth-century.

Locas are typically played by men who are performing drag, or cross-dressing. My research is focused the way that gender and race get mapped onto certain individuals in festival settings and how those gender and raced ideas extend beyond the festival settings influencing wider socio-cultural constructions of gender and race.

My research has appeared in Journal of Africana Religions (JOAR) and Feminist Theology (FT). This summer, a forthcoming article will appear in TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. My first-ever article entitled “From Argentina to Scotland to Mexico” explored the transnational possibilities of sexual liberation theology and appeared in Feminist Theology. The article argued for a nuanced approach to indecent theology, the sexual liberation theology of Marcella Althaus-Reid, by pairing her work with phenomenologist Jean-Luc Marion’s work on the erotic. In “The Long Arc of Islamophobia,” which appeared in JOAR, I argued that Islamophobia has largely been considered an Arabo-Persian problem, which is to say, that Black Muslims and African Muslims have often been excluded from the discussion. The article seeks to draw out the history of anti-Black and -African Islamophobia by resituating the discussion in terms of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Iberian peninsula in the ninth-century. In the forthcoming TSQ article, I consider the role of spirit possession in Cuban Santería and how spirit possession is a helpful way for understanding the fluid and  permeable human body.