Valentina Napolitano

Professor and Connaught Scholar
AP 218
(416) 978-2754


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

*Not currently accepting new graduate supervisions for 2022-2023

Research Keywords: Critical Theory, Theopolitics and Critical Catholic Studies, Subjectivity and Personhood, Affective Histories, Holy Infrastructures, Mobility and Unsettlement, Anthropology of Traces.

Research Region: The Vatican, Mexico, Italy, Detroit/Windsor corridor


Valentina Napolitano’s work engages with anthropological, political theological and critical theory debates about personhood, migration, traces, borderlands, the religious and Critical Catholic Studies. Among other work, she is the author of two monographs (Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return: transnationalism and the Roman Catholic Church, 2016 FUP and Migration, Mujercitas and Medicine Man: living in Urban Mexico UCP, 2002) and different  edited collections and articles, particularly on Theopolitics, and  Francis as a Criollo Pope  (for a list of publications see here).

She is now working  on a new book, Mystical Politics: beyond identity in 21C, as well as on Churches as living infrastructures at the US/Canada borderland. Valentina is the recipient of the Connaught Global Challenge Award on Entangled Worlds: Sovereignty, Sanctities and Soil (with Prof. Simon Coleman)  and herself navigating different threads of life through the soil and histories of  the Americas, the trans- Mediterranean and West Africa. 


Ph.D. (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1995)

Recent Awards and Grants

  • 2020       Fellow, Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London
  • 2019       First Essay Prize, Political Theology Network. American Academy of Religion
  • 2018-      Connaught Scholar, Connaught Global Challenge Award, University of Toronto
  • 2017-18  Fellow, Centre of Theological Inquiry, Princeton
  • 2016       Book Finalist, Geertz Prize, Society for Anthropology of Religion (AAA)
  • 2009-14; 2017-22      Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Insight Grants



Napolitano, Valentina. Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return: Transnationalism and the Roman Catholic Church. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016. 248 pp. 
[Finalist, 2016 Geertz Prize. Society Anthropology of Religion (American Anthropology Association).]

Napolitano, Valentina. Migration, Mujercitas and Medicine Men: Living in Urban Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. 256 pp. 

Edited Books and Special Issues

(forthcoming, 2024)  Luke Bretherton, Vincent Lloyds and Valentina Napolitano. What is Political Theology? (Columbia University Press)

Napolitano, Valentina and Carlota McAllister, eds. Theopolitics: Rethinking the Theological and Political from the AmericasSpecial Issue in Social Analysis) 64.4 (2020).

Norget, Kristin, Valentina Napolitano and Maya Mayblineds. The Anthropology of Catholicism: A Companion Reader. Berkeley: University of California Press, (2017). 370 pp. 

Napolitano, Valentina, Nurit Stadler and Nimrod Luz, eds. Borderlands and Religion: Materialities, Ontologies and the Transformation of Sovereignty, Special Issue in Religion and Society: Advances in Research 6.1 (2015): 90-168. 

Napolitano, Valentina and Kristin Norget, eds. Economies of Sanctities: the Translocal Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, Special Issue in Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds 5.3 (2011): 251-407 

Napolitano, Valentina and David Pratten (eds). “Michel de Certeau Ethnography and the Challenge of Plurality.” Special Issue in Social Anthropology 15.1 (2007): 1-106. 

Valentina Napolitano. Xochitl Leyva Solano, eds. Encuentros Antropológicos: Power, Identity and Mobility in Mexican Society. London: ILAS Series (1998). 

Journal Articles (since 2015)

Napolitano, Valentina, Stephen Berquist and Elizabeth Rigotti “Holy Infrastructures: Catholicism, Detroit Borderlands, and the Elements”. (Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2024, 64(4))

Napolitano, Valentina (In press, March 2024) “A Foucault’s Otherwise: A commentary on Niklaus Largier’s Figures of Possibility “ Political Theology Journal.

Napolitano, Valentina. (2022) “Young Kings: Marcus Rashford and Theopolitics” Political Theology Journal  24:1, 70-81. DOI: 10.1080/1462317X.2022.2133804

Napolitano, Valentina and Carlota McAllister (2021). “Political Theology/Theopolitics: The Thresholds and Vulnerabilities of Sovereignty”. The Annual Review of Anthropology (vol 50).

Napolitano, Valentina and Carlota McAllister. “Incarnate Politics Beyond the Cross and the Sword: On Theopolitics in / of the Americas.” Introduction to a special issue. Social Analysis 64.4 (2020).

Napolitano, Valentina. “On the Touch-Event: Theopolitical Encounters.” Social Analysis 64.4 (2020).

Napolitano, Valentina. “Francis, a Criollo Pope.” Religion & Society: Advances in Research 10 (2019): 63-80.

Napolitano, Valentina. “On Bone Relic Assemblages.” Journal of Material Religion 13.4 (2017): 524-526.

Napolitano, Valentina. “Sacred Heart and the Movement of the Religious.” Journal of Material Religion 13.2 (2017): 237-239.

Luz, Nimrod, Valentina Napolitano and Nurit Stadler. “Borderlands and Religion: Materialities, Ontologies and the Transformation of Sovereignty.” Religion and Society: Advances in Research 6.1 (2015): 90–97.

Napolitano, Valentina. “Anthropology and Traces.” Anthropological Theory 15.1 (2015): 47- 67. 

Book Chapters  (since 2017)

V. Napolitano (forthcoming 2024) “An Anthropological Political Theology” in Luke Bretherton, Vincent Lloyds and Valentina Napolitano. What is Political Theology? (Columbia University Press)

Gagliardi, Connie and Valentina Napolitano (2021) . “Icons of Uncaring: Borderland Cartographies of Icon-Making.” In Navaro, Y., Biner, Z. Ö., von Bieberstein, A., & Altuğ, S. (Eds.). Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Napolitano, Valentina. Anthropology and Theology: Notes on Gender, Migration and Mystics.” In The Church and Migration: Global (In)Difference? Darren Dias and Michael Attridge, eds. Ecclesiological Investigation Series. Palgrave, 2020

Napolitano, Valentina. Migrant Itineraries and the Catholic Church: An Anthropological Approach.” In Christian Theology in the Age of Migration, Peter C. Phan, edLexington Press, 2020. 

Mayblin, Maya, Valentina Napolitano and Kristin Norget. “Introduction.” In The Anthropology of Catholicism: A Companion Reader, Kristin Norget, Valentina Napolitano and Maya Mayblin, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017. 1-29. 

Napolitano, Valentina. “On a Political Economy of Political Theology: El Señor de los Milagros.” In The Anthropology of Catholicism: A Companion Reader, Kristin Norget, Valentina Napolitano and Maya Mayblin, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017. 243-255. 

Napolitano, Valentina. “‘The Globalization of Indifference’: On Pope Francis, Migration and Global Acedia.” In Market and Morality, edited by Daromir Rudnyckyj and Fillipo Osella. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. pp. 263-284. 

Graduate Students

Postdoctoral Fellows

Graduate Supervisions

Professor Napolitano is interested in supervising students wanting to work on:

  • Theopolitics, Political Theology and Critical Theory
  • Affects, Affective Histories and Anthropology of Traces
  • Anthropology and Theology
  • Borderlands and Holy Infrastructures
  • Unsettlement, Migration and (im)mobility
  • Personhood and Subjectivity