Learn more about Brett Hendrickson, professor of religious studies
Research area: My research and publications are in two overlapping areas. The first of these is Mexican American religious history, and the second is the intersection of religion and healing. My first book, Border Medicine, looks at traditional and religious Mexican American healing practice, often collectively referred to as ‘curanderismo.’ In that book, I show how curanderismo has evolved in the United States and has had an impact not only on Latinx communities, but also among non-Latinx populations. My second book, The Healing Power of the Santuario de Chimayó, tells the story of one of the most important sites of Catholic pilgrimage in the U.S.: a 200-year-old adobe church in northern New Mexico, the ‘Santuario,’ which is known for a hole in its floor that contains what many consider to be miraculously healing dirt. My most recent book, Mexican American Religions: An Introduction, is just that: an introduction to the religious history and traditions of the 37 million Americans who trace their ancestry to Mexico. My current research project, which I hope will eventually result in a book, looks at 20th-century public health campaigns among Mexican American populations and the role these campaigns played in defining (and sometimes limiting) Mexican American religious practice.
My Lafayette journey: I was attracted to Lafayette because I knew it was a place where I would be able to grow as a teacher and continue to rigorously pursue my research. Not all institutions of higher ed strike this balance between teaching and research as well as Lafayette does. What I love about teaching at Lafayette is the combination of curiosity and diligence that so many of our students bring to the classroom. They want to learn about new things, and they are willing to put in the effort to do so. Teaching in such an environment is a delight. I often say that my job as a teacher is to not stand in the way of the students’ inherent curiosity and desire to learn. It helps that many students are surprised by how much they end up enjoying studying people’s religious traditions, history, practices, and beliefs.
What receiving a full professorship means to me: Being a full professor affords a certain new level of freedom (as a teacher and scholar) but also a new level of responsibility to serve my colleagues and help the College flourish.
What I will be teaching in the fall: I will be teaching a section of our department’s gateway course, REL101 Religions in World Cultures. I also will be teaching my FYS088 Communicating With the Dead. It feels good to me that my first semester as a full professor will have me teaching Lafayette first-year students and some of the foundational content areas and principles of my discipline.