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Edward Wright-Rios

Professor of History
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of History

Edward Wright-Rios is a cultural historian specializing in modern Mexico. His book Revolutions in Mexican Catholicism: Reform and Revelation in Oaxaca, 1887-1934, (Duke University Press, 2009) won the 2010 Murdo J. MacLeod Prize of the Latin American and Caribbean Section of the Southern Historical Association. It was also named the winner of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), Mexico Section, Social Science Book Prize, for outstanding scholarship on Mexico. Revolutions examines religious reformism in the Catholic Church and popular religious movements in southern Mexico. Thus it tracks both “top-down” and “bottom-up” processes. On one hand, it explores how Catholic priests and activists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought about a modern revitalization of the Church as an institution, and sought to discipline popular religiosity and westernize pious expression within the nation’s diverse population. On the other, it traces how indigenous communities, and particularly devout women, championed their own religious experiences and organized movements around allegedly miraculous experiences.

Professor Wright-Rios recently published a new book that scrutinizes the historical legacy of an apocryphal prophetess and her visions concerning Mexico’s tumultuous history. Entitled Searching for La Madre Matiana: Prophecy and Popular Culture in Modern Mexico (University of New Mexico Press, 2014), this book offers a “life and times” of a legendary popular figure and narrative. In a sense the book documents a historical game of telephone, following the devotees, satirists, activists, and reformers who made use of prophetess and her visions over the course of a century.

Over the years Professor Wright-Rios has enjoyed the support of the Fulbright Foundation, the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, and Vanderbilt’s Center for the Americas and the Division for Sponsored Research. He was also awarded the Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship administered by the American Council of Learned Societies in 2011.

Professor Wright-Rios teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on colonial and modern Latin America, reform and revolution, Mexico, popular culture, and religious change. He has given lectures on Mexican art, dance, and politics at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. He also led a professional development program for public school teachers in Mexico for Vanderbilt’s Center for Latin American Studies.