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Kathleen Holscher is associate professor of American Studies and Religious Studies, and holds the Endowed Chair of Roman Catholic Studies at UNM. She received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Princeton University, and was assistant professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University from 2008 until coming to UNM in 2012. Her primary research areas are U.S. Catholic history, religion and law / politics, religion in the American Southwest, and religion and race/empire. At UNM Holscher offers courses that include Catholicism in America, Catholic Saints in North America, and Religion in New Mexico. 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. Holscher is currently at work on several projects, including a book-length history of Catholicism and church-state separation in the United States.
Religion, Social Theory, Social Movements, Southwest Studies
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.