Laura Ammon


I am an Associate Professor of Religion. I research and teach about how humans construct meaning in their lives within, alongside, and outside of traditional religious venues. I work with the colonial past, looking at how our ancestors understood their world and how it still affects our modern understandings of race and religion. I also think about the possible futures we imagine that echo the questions of religion: who we are, how we make sense of our world, and what gives us meaning. 

I am co-author with archaeologist Dr. Cheryl Claassen ( of Religion in Sixteenth-Century Mexico: A Guide to Aztec and Catholic Beliefs and Practices forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. This work explores the development of religion in the 16th century across the Atlantic, from Spain to Tenochtitlan. Devotion expressed through cults was the single most salient aspect in the transfer of Catholicism to New World people. The cultic organization of both Aztecs and Spanish Catholics at time of encounter were large and small scale community, family, and personal devotions operated in both cultures with significant impact on their respective economic systems. This book highlights the role that religion played in the emerging modern world at its birth in the 16th century in the regions of Iberia, Anahuac, and “New Spain”, or central Mexico from Zacatecas to Oaxaca. An in-depth historical essay is followed by 118 key word entries spotlighting cultic practices to show native and Spaniard perspectives on a topic prior to the 16th century and then highlights the agency of each during the initial 100 years. Our reading of the history of these two world religions is that both were fluid rather than fixed, each incorporated elements of religion from conquered peoples, accommodating practices, transforming beliefs, shaping cultures. It is our opinion that what developed in the 16th century in New Spain was a Catholicism infused with elements far beyond the Iberian core. This exploration not only adds to our knowledge of both Aztecs at the time of the conquest and early-modern ecclesiastical strategies and practices but increases our understanding of the pliability of religion and the mechanisms of mestizaje religiosity.

Research Interests

Religion and Colonialism; History of Religion in Social Theory; Early Modern Christianity in Latin America; Global Christianity; Religions in the Americas, Religion and Science Fiction.


Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA
Ph.D. Religion, 2006

The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Master of Arts, Religious Studies

Webster University, St. Louis, MO
Bachelor of Liberal Arts



  • Religion in Sixteenth-Century Mexico: A Guide to Aztec and Catholic Beliefs and Practices. Co-author Cheryl Claassen. Cambridge University Press (forthcoming).
  • Work Useful to Religion and the Humanities: A History of the Development of the Comparative Method in Religion from Bartolomé Las Casas to Edward Burnett Tylor. Pickwick Studies in the History of Religion, 1. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, (Fall 2012).

Articles and Chapters

  • ‘No Greater nor More Arduous Step’: Lactantius, Las Casas and Continuity in Christian Rhetoric about Conversion in Rady Roldán-Figueroa, Th.D.and David Thomas, Orique, O.P., Ph.D., Eds., The Transatlantic Bartolomé de las Casas: Lascasian Heritage, Indigenous Cultures, Scholastic Thought, and Historical Reception, Brill. 2022.
  • The Classroom is a Public Space: Occupying Learning Outcomes to Foster Public-Facing Pedagogy with co-authors Sandie Gravett, Ann Burlein, Amanda Mbuvi, and Joseph Witt.  The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching. Spring 2022.
  • "Is Alexa My Neighbor: Religious Future of Home Artificial Intelligence Devices." Co-author Randall Reed. Journal of Posthuman Studies: Philosophy, Technology, Media. Vol. 3, No. 2, (2019).
  • "Living the Star Trek Future: Nichelle Nichols and the Implicit Religion of Star Trek: The Original Series." Time Lords & Tribbles, Winchesters & Muggles: The DePaul Pop Culture Conference a Five Year Retrospective. Paul Booth and Isabella Menichiello, eds. DePaul Pop Culture series No. 1. (2017).
  • "Futurism and the Study of Religion." In Anthony B. Pinn, ed. Religion: Just Religion. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, (2016).
  • "Where We Have Gone Before: Star Trek Into and Out of Darkness." Implicit Religion, Vol. 17, No. 4, (2014).
  • "Distinctive and not Disposable: Religious Studies and American Higher Education in the 21st Century." The Examined Life: Religious Studies and the Cultivation of Self-Reflection. Religious Studies News Spotlight on Teaching, edited by Joanne Robinson. Eds. Stephanie Gray, Ellen Posman, and Reid B. Locklin. American Academy of Religion: Atlanta, GA. (May 2012).
  • "Jose de Acosta and Bernardino de Sahagun and the Sixteenth-Century Theology of Sacrifice in New Spain." Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Vol. 12. No. 3 (September 2011).
  • "Graduate Women's Studies: An Assessment After Two Decades" (co-author with Jean Schroedel, Karen Torjesen, Pamela Zeiser, and Charles Turner). Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (Vol. 28, 1999): 201-219.

Encyclopedia Articles

  • "Huckersterism and Religious Scandals"; "The Sanctuary Movement"; "Sister Helen Prejean"; "Native American Religious Freedom"; "Liberation Theology" [co-authored with Randall Reed]. Battlegrounds: Religion, Daniel Smith-Christopher, ed. Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, CT., (2009).


Book Reviews

  • Florence C. Hsia, Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and Their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial ChinaTerrae Incognitae. Dr. Marguerite Ragnow, ed. Vol. 43. No 2 (September 2011).
  • Clare Pettitt, Dr Livingstone, I presume ? Missionaries, journalists, explorers and empireTerrae Incognitae. Dr. Marguerite Ragnow, ed. Vol. 41 (2009).
  • Christopher Black and Pamela Gravestock eds., Early Modern Confraternities in Europe and the Americas: International and Interdisciplinary PerspectivesItinerario. Frans Paul van der Putten, ed. Vol. 32:1 (2008).
  • Jorge-Magasich Airola and Jean Marc de Beer, America Magica: When Renaissance Europe Thought it had Conquered ParadiseItinerario. Hendrik E. Niemeijer, ed. Vol. 31:1 (2007).
  • Amy E. Den Ouden, Beyond Conquest: Native Peoples and the Struggle for History in New England and Jenny Hale Pulsipher, Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New EnglandItinerario. Hendrik E. Niemeijer, ed. Vol. 30:3 (2006).
  • The Burden of the Flesh: Fasting and Sexuality in Early Christianity by Teresa Shaw. Bulletin of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity. J.Ma. Asgeirsson, ed. Vol. XXVI (Winter 1999).
Title: Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Watauga Residential College
Department: Philosophy and Religion

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-7641

Office address
I. G. Greer Hall 213-A