Religious Studies ~ Performance Studies ~ French Studies

Joy Palacios

Assistant Professor

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Classics and Religion at the University of Calgary, where I teach courses on ritual and religious experience. Before coming to the University of Calgary, I taught courses on early modern literature in the French Department at Simon Fraser University.

My research focuses on the way large organizations use performance and ritual to generate authority, maintain institutions, and forge communities. For me, performance includes dynamics such as role-playing, staging, theater, spectacle, rehearsal, and self-presentation. These performances can take on a ritualized character when, as anthropologist Ronald Grimes argues, they are repeated, prescribed, associated with shared values, conducted in special places or times, or used to promote a non-ordinary attitude.

Two research streams, one historical and the other ethnographic, allow me to pursue my interest in the way ritualized performance helps maintain large organizations.

Inspired by my love for the French language and my commitment to understanding the past, my first project uses archival methods and performance theory to study priestly training and liturgical practice in early modern France (1630-1730) to better understand how the Catholic Church sought to renew its authority by differentiating priests from actors, masses from plays, and the Church from the state. A chapter from this project has appeared in Past and Present and the book manuscript is under revision. More generally, my research interests in the historical stream concern the religious practice, culture, and literature of the French Counter-Reformation, as well as French theater history and drama under the Ancien Régime.

Prompted by the observation that in a capitalist economy brand affiliation bears a resemblance to religious faith, my second stream of research examines the way big businesses use performance and ritual to help people connect to their mission. Tentatively titled, “Business Ritualization: Religious Performance in Corporate North America,” this project uses ethnographic observation and interviews to examine how, when, and why North American corporations use rituals to coordinate the behavior of their employees and partners and bind people to the organization.

I hold a B.A. in the Comparative History of Ideas from the University of Washington (2001) and a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley (2012).

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