Valentina Napolitano

Photo of Valentina NapolitanoValentina Napolitano, Ph.D. (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1995)
Professor, St. George Campus
(416) 978-2754
Office: AP 218


Research Keywords: Critical Catholic Studies, Transnational Migration, Gender and Affects, Religious Infrastructures, Affective Histories, Anthropology of Traces.

Research Region: Mexico and the Vatican, Italy

Research Bio

Valentina Napolitano is the author of ‘Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return’ (Fordham University Press, 2015) and ‘Migration, Mujercitas and Medicine Man: living in Urban Mexico’ (University of California Press, 2002). In the former she examines contemporary migration in the context of a Roman Catholic Church eager to both comprehend and act upon the movements of peoples. Combining extensive fieldwork with lay and religious Latin American migrants in Rome and analysis of the Catholic Church’s historical desires and anxieties around conversion since the period of colonization, Napolitano sketches the dynamics of a return to a faith’s putative centre. Against a Eurocentric notion of Catholic identity, Napolitano shows how the Americas reorient Europe. For more on the book see:

Napolitano’s expertise focuses on Catholicism, Affects, Migration, Gendered subjectivities, Transnational Returns of Histories and Roman Catholic Church’s Politics, as well as Political Theology and Catholicism. Her new research is on Catholic Borderlands at the Detroit/Windsor corridor focusing on catholic living infrastructures in this border region (Insight Grant, SSHRC, 2017-2021). Napolitano has a long lasting interest in the relation between psychoanalysis and socio-cultural anthropology with a particular focus on the work by Michel de Certeau and the importance of the Medieval Archive for Anthropology. Moreover she is currently working on a new book on Pope Francis as the apex of the Atlantic Return.


Recent Publications

Napolitano, Migrant HeartsBook Monographs

2015 Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return: transnationalism and the Roman Catholic Church. Fordham University Press, New York. Finalist, 2016 Clifford Geertz Prize. {Read the Los Angeles  Review of Books article about Migrant Hearts written by Hillary Kaell here.}

2002  Migration, Mujercitas and Medicine Men: living in urban Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Edited Books/Special Issues

2017 The Anthropology of Catholicism: A Companion Reader (co-edited with Maya Mayblin and Kristin Norget), University of California Press.

2015 Borderlands and Religion: Materialities, Histories, and the Spatialization of State Sovereignty (co-edited with Nimrod Luz and Nurit Stadler). Religion and Society. 6(1): 90-97.

2011 Napolitano, V & Norget, K. Economies of Sanctities: the Translocal Roman Catholic Church in Latin America. In Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds 5(3).

2007 Napolitano, V. & D. Pratten (Eds.) Special Issue: Michel de Certeau Ethnography and the Challenge of Plurality. In Social Anthropology, 15(1).

1998 Napolitano, V. & X. Leyva Solano (Eds.) Encuentros Antropologicos: power, identity and mobility in Mexican Society. London: ILAS Series.


2017  On Bone Relic Assemblages, Journal of Material Religion 13.4 :524-526.

2017  Sacred Heart and the Movement of the Religious. Journal of Material Religion 13.2: 237-239.

2017 “Writing’s edges and the sex of Earth beings” Comment on De La Cadena, Marisol. (2015). Earthbeings: Ecologies of practice across Andean worlds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. HAU Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7.1.

2017 ‘The Globalization of Indifference’: On Pope Francis, Migration and Global Acedia.’ In Religion and the Morality of the Market, edited by Daromir Rudnyckyj and Fillipo Osella. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2017 On a Political Economy of Political Theology: El Señor los Milagros. In. The Anthropology of Catholicism: A Companion Reader (co-edited with Maya Mayblin and Kristin Norget), University of California Press.

2015 Anthropology and Traces. Anthropological Theory Vol 15(1): 47-67

2013  The Atlantic Return and the Payback of Evangelization. Religion & Gender  Vol 3(2): 207-221.

2011   Phantomatic Presences and Bioreligiosity – on the Legionaries of Christ and the Jesuit Order. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds. Vol 5(3): 293-316.

2009   The Virgin of Guadalupe, a Nexus of Affect. Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, 15 (1)

Graduate Supervisions

Valentina is interested in supervising students wanting to work on:

  • Catholicism and affects
  • Psychoanalysis, histories and traces
  • Religions and borderlands
  • Sex, gender and personhood
  • Political theologies and sovereignty
  • Transnational and Forced Migration

Graduate Students

Photo of Connie Gagliardi
Connie Gagliardi
photo of Morganne Blais-McPherson
Morganne Blais-McPherson