Camila Mardones Bravo – Bodies and Vessels: Transcultural Ritual Artifacts in Andean Churches, 17th-18th Centuries

Camila Mardones’ doctoral research dealt with indigenous parishes in the colonial Andes, analyzing social structures through material culture, images and ritual practices, in order to understand the transcultural base of Andean Catholicism. In the context of Bourbon reforms and increasing social discontent of the 18th century, she developed an in depth micro-historical analysis of case studies with a comparative approach of two neighboring ecclesiastical jurisdiction that had significant circulation of people and goods between them, but their appropriation of European religious practice was divergent, leading to observe the close link between local economy and religion. She suggests an intertwining between the processes of monetization and evangelization within the Spanish empire, which resulted in different forms of Catholicism in indigenous parishes.

The study of ecclesiastical material culture challenges essentialist notions of religious artifacts and exhibits the diversity of historical actors and complexities of transcultural processes. An object’s biography and its social agency can be analyzed through its spatial and material context, as well as through the narratives registered on documentary pieces, which often prove the contesting quality of these artifacts. The surviving material culture of several chapels enables an intertwined ethnohistorical analysis of religious practice and aesthetics. Ecclesiastical artifacts, in the Andes, may seem enclosed in the catholic sphere of ritual and sacredness, but their biography often exhibits tensions and negotiations proper of their transcultural context. A special focus on certain types of artifacts – devotional images of saints and ritual vessels (such as monstrances, holy chalices, keros and aquillas) – will allow to systematize results, observing their agency in the creation of new religious forms. The bodies of Virgins and Saints, formed often by transregional materials, serve as vessels for the expression of local religious beliefs and the development of heterodox rituals. Vessels for the holy mass rituals are also conceived as bodies that dialogue with other significant ritual objects proper of Andean cultures, serving as artifacts which express power struggles, social structures and material agencies.

Camila Mardones Bravo is a Chilean historian with an interdisciplinary background. She studied Hispanoamerican Literature and Art History at Universidad de Chile and recently defended her doctoral thesis in Medieval and Early Modern History at Universität Hamburg. She has been devoted to the study of art, religion and transcultural phenomena in the Viceroyalty of Peru for over a decade and dedicated her dissertation to the research of Andean parishes through ecclesiastical material culture, local economies and indigenous adaptations and appropriations of Catholicism. Camila is creator of the project Letras de antaño, a series of workshops for a wider dissemination of viceregal literature. She collaborates currently in the project “Espacios sacros entre la recursividad y la heterodoxia: análisis comparativo de las estrategias pastorales y visuales en los templos del sur andino colonial”, directed by Dr. Agustina Rodríguez Romero, Universidad Tres de Febrero (Argentina) and was recently awarded a John Carter Brown Library Short-Term Fellowship to be held during 2024. Camila lives in Hamburg with her family and forms part of the Andean folklore dance group Kantuta Hamburg.

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Academies Editorial Board (2024, 29. Februar). Camila Mardones Bravo – Bodies and Vessels: Transcultural Ritual Artifacts in Andean Churches, 17th-18th Centuries. TRANSREGIONAL ACADEMIES. Abgerufen am 15. Juni 2024, von

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