José Santana

Graduate Student in History of Christian Traditions


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José is a Ph.D. Candidate studying the historical interplay between Africana religions and Christianity in the early modern Atlantic world. His research interests intersect around race and slavery, the development and expression of African religiosity in Latin America, and historical, theological, and theoretical interpretations of Christian interaction with surrounding cultures and religions. His current project questions the early development of Afro-Caribbean Catholicism through the encounter of enslaved Africans with the missional thought and methods of Jesuit missionaries in the early 17th century. With a growing consciousness of the African heritage amongst Latin American communities, his work foregrounds the resurgence of the rich history of African religious expression amongst Catholics.

José has earned a B.S. in Sport Management and M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton. His love for learning religious and cultural histories comes from his upbringing in the Puerto Rican diaspora of Cleveland, Ohio, and involvement in a local Puerto Rican Catholic community. Outside of his academic interests, he enjoys sports, a relaxing family bbq, and learning about and trying new beers. Jose has also formerly worked in promotional marketing and public relations for professional athletes. 

Advisors: Dr. Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi and Dr. James K. Lee.

Dissertation Title: “Slave Servants and Saved Souls: Jesuit Evangelization and the Development of Afro-Caribbean Catholicism, 1605-1654”

Fellowships, Supported Research, and Other Grants: Louisville Institute Dissertation Award, Honorary Dissertation Fellow (2022-23); FTE Doctoral Fellowship (2021-22); HTI/Lilly Dissertation Fellowship (2020-21); Fellowship in Latino/a Christianity and Religions, Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions at Perkins School of Theology (2017-20); Graduate Student Summer Fellowship, University of Dayton (2016)


Santana, José L. "To Walk with Slaves: Jesuit Contexts and the Atlantic World in the Cartagena Mission to Enslaved Africans, 1605–1654." Religions 12, no. 5 (2021): 334.

Santana, José L. "Review of Romero & Grande: Companions on the Journey, by Ana María Pineda, R.S.M." Perspectivas 17 (2020):

Conference Presentations:

“Resistance and the African Heritage in Caribbean Catholicism.” Presented at Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States annual colloquium, Dayton, OH, June 4, 2019.

“Permeability and Resistance: Toward an Interreligious Dialogue Between Santería and Catholicism.” Presented at Paths to Unity: Christian Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue Today, Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, TX, March 4, 2019.

“An Absent History: The Marks of Africa on Puerto Rican Popular Catholicism.” Presented at Stander Symposium, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, April 2017.

“Growth Mindset and Catholic Social Teaching.” Presented at Colors of Leadership Conference, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, March 2016. Co-presented with Amberly Santana.

Service to the Profession:

Organizational Administrative Intern, ACHTUS

Research Assistant, Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions, SMU

Community Life Chair, GPRS Graduate Student Organization, SMU