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Kathleen Holscher

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Office: Humanities 459

Associate Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies

Education: PhD, Princeton University


Research Interest

Religion, Social Theory, Social Movements, Southwest Studies

Dr. Holscher is associate professor of American Studies, and also holds the Endowed Chair of Roman Catholic Studies in the Religious Studies program at UNM. Her research is located at the intersection of religious studies with American cultural history and legal / political history. She also has a significant scholarly interest in religion in New Mexico and the American West. Much of her work represents an effort to think critically about how the particular qualities of regional religious life (including local, religiously-inflected imaginings of race, landscape, governance, etc.) inform and destabilize both national and, especially in the case of Catholicism, transnational religious narratives, at different historical moments.

Her first book, Religious Lessons: Catholic Sisters, Public Education and the Law in Mid-Century New Mexico, was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. Religious Lessons tells the story of Zellers v. Huff, a court case that challenged the employment of nearly 150 Catholic sisters in public schools across New Mexico in 1948. The “Dixon case,” as it was known nationally, was the most famous in a series of midcentury lawsuits, targeting what opponents provocatively dubbed “captive schools.” For many Americans, the scenario of nuns in veils teaching Spanish-speaking New Mexican children embodied the high stakes of the era’s church-state conflicts, and became occasion to assess the implications of separation in their own lives.

Holscher is currently at work on several projects, ranging from a book chapter on changing ideas about and experiences of priestly authority among rural New Mexican Catholics; to a study of the “biblical turn” of the midcentury American Catholic devotional imagination, and its implications for early Catholic / evangelical Protestant alliances around law and politics; as well a critical analysis of the recent impulse of American Catholics to memorialize, and promote for canonization, Cold War military chaplains.