ISS Visiting Scholar: Patrick A. Polk     

For the fall of 2006, the ISS welcomes visiting scholar Patrick A. Polk, Senior Museum Scientist and Lecturer in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prof. Polk’s primary research interests include folk religion, material behavior, popular culture, and urban visual traditions. Because he perceives that visual representations such as icons can function as scriptures that provide more comfortable and popular modes of accessing sanctity, Polk appreciates that he can “walk [into the ISS] and see the importance placed on folk art and visual manifestations of faith.”

Polk’s visiting scholar position at the ISS allows him to work on two projects that tie into the mission of the ISS and depend upon resources specifically available in Claremont. He is tracking the historiography of African American engagement in alternative medicine and ritual practice and examining nineteenth-century, early Mormon black prophets.

His scholarship anchors Botánica Los Angeles: Latino Popular Religious Art In The City Of Angels (UCLA Fowler, 2005), a volume that collects essays and photographs related to spiritual centers which also operate as religious supply houses and alternate healthcare facilities. He has also published on Haitian Vodou flags and the artistic reuse of mass-produced items.

On Nov. 2, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead/All Souls Day), Prof. Polk presented “The Lives of the Dead: Botánicas, Spiritism, and the Ghosts of Slavery” as part of the ISS Brown Bag Lunch Discussion series.

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