Héctor M. Varela Rios

Junior Fellow

My goal this year can be stated simply: to complete my dissertation. Easier said than done, though. This fellowship with the Martin Marty Center (MMC), especially due to the interdisciplinary conversations with peers and faculty, will be key to accomplishing that goal. More specifically, my dissertation deals with the intersecton between theology and artifacts (also known as material culture) around one question: how are artifacts theological? Though some artifacts, such as Christian icons or Hindu murti, are construed as or assumed to be religious, others seem to go further and elicit religious reflection (i.e., theology) in an intersubjective relationship with their humans. By exploring these materialities through an articulated statue of Nuestra Señora de La Monserrate, I will suggest a particular ‘Artifact-centered’ Theology (AcT) that goes beyond previous theologies ‘of’ or ‘in’ artifacts. Developing AcTs entails an interdisciplinary approach with other human and social sciences, e.g. using artifact analyses from material culture studies as theological method. My MMC cohort and mentors’ funds of knowledge will facilitate such interaction.

The Divinity School has been my scholarly home for the last six years. My peers, advisor, and other faculty members and administrators, along with other material resources, have been invaluable on this academic journey, forming me as a scholar and teacher. No doubt – Swift Hall is a challenging place, but it also has become a space for learning and collegiality beyond all my expectations.