New Publication: Figuring Catholicism: An Ethnohistory of the Santo Niño de Cebu by Julius Bautista

Bautista, Julius, Figuring Catholicism: An Ethnohistory of the  Santo Niño de Cebu, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2010

This book is about a statue of Christ as a boy worshipped by millions of Filipinos from all walks of life. Today the Santo Niño – said to be  the same wooden figure brought to the islands by Ferdinand Magellan at the  moment of his 1521 “discovery” of the Philippines – is enshrined in a  bullet-proof glass case in a Basilica that hosts throngs of devotees during its  Friday novenas. The author combines ethnography with historiography and  discourse analysis to study how our most prevalent assumptions about the figure  are produced and disseminated. What ideas have sustained such assumptions after  all this time? How did the figure become such a popular “national” treasure? To  what can we attribute the Santo Niño’s appeal outside the official doctrines of  the Catholic faith? This book looks at historical documents, popular songs,  news articles, poems, and oral accounts to address such questions. In doing so,  the book describes the contours of a “figured” Catholicism as the context in  which we can think about the Santo Niño in ways we have not done before.