For a New Religious History of Italian Catholic Immigrants in the United States (1854–1921)

Massimo Di Gioacchino, New York University

The religious history of Italian Catholic immigrants in the United States (1876–1921) is in many ways a history of “deviance” from the Catholic religious canon. Unlike what has generally been documented by historians in the past about other places and periods, however, it is not a history of deviance from the “rule of faith” of the Church, but a history of political deviance from its ecclesial practice, its norms, and its laws. Massimo Di Gioacchino will present research that aims to correct and broaden the overall understanding of the past religious experience of Italian immigrants in America (1854–1921). In his talk he will shift the focus of attention from the devotion culture of the Italians―and the ideologically charged terms that have historically been used to describe it (paganpopularmagic, etc.)―to the ways Italian immigrants have actually organized and practiced their ecclesiastical life in the US.