Anthropologie, France

Fellowship : October 2018 to June 2019

Discipline(s) : Anthropology

Pays : France

Research project : Acting with pictures: conversion, communication and catholic rituals (Mexico – Andes, 16th-21st centuries)

This project is based on several years of research on the use of images in Catholic catechesis from the sixteenth century to the present day (Mexico, Andes). It studies the associations made between Catholic concepts and painted or three-dimensional images, focusing more particularly on events (translations and pictorial representations) whose common point is a deliberate recourse to iconic ways of communication. On the one hand, the historical study reveals the communication innovations implemented by the clergy since the sixteenth century, for the translation of Christian texts in the context of the conversion of indigenous peoples of the Americas. On the other hand, in the twenty-first century, the ethnographic survey reveals how these same texts are transcribed by means of multiple images either painted, modelled or extracted from the surrounding landscape.


Berenice Gaillemin graduated with her PhD in ethnology in 2013. She has been working since 2004 in Mexico and since 2012 in Bolivia. She devotes her research to the use of documents in which Catholic prayers have been transcribed into images, texts whose verbatim memorization has been imposed on indigenous populations in the context of the spiritual conquest of America. In general, her work aims to grasp the articulation between speech, image and writing while seeking to understand the context of use and stabilization of these singular catechetical methods. Defended at the University Paris Ouest Nanterre in 2013, her PhD-thesis is entitled "The ingenious art of painting speech and talking to the eyes. Development and use of catechisms in images of Mexico (16th-19th centuries)". She has taught Nahuatl language for ten years (at the INALCO, Paris since 2015), and has updated the procedures used in colonial Mexico for transcribing Indian translations of Catholic prayers into images.  After her PhD, she tested her hypotheses by observing similar practices in contemporary Bolivia during two postdoctoral positions in the LabEx HASTEC and the LabEx TransferS.

Major publications

GAILLEMIN, Bérénice. “D’argile, de fleurs et de laine. Catéchismes multisensoriels dans les hauts plateaux boliviens”, Anouk Cohen, Katerina Kerestetzi & Damin Mottier (coord.), Gradhiva, 26, pp.46-69.

GAILLEMIN, Bérénice. "En el nombre de Dios Padre: reinvidicaciones de la nobleza indígena”, Los códices Mesoamericanos. Registros de religión, política y sociedad, Miguel Ángel Ruz Barrio & Juan José Batalla Rosado (coord.), Mexico : Colegio Mexiquense, 2016, pp.285-309.

GAILLEMIN, Bérénice. “Les catéchismes testériens : un corpus homogène ? ”, Nouveaux chrétiens, nouvelles chrétientés dans les Amériques, P. Ragon (dir.), Paris : Presses Universitaires de Paris Ouest, 2014, pp.  83-104.

GAILLEMIN, Bérénice. “Prier en suivant les sillons: lecture d’un catéchisme pictographique mexicain conservé à Berlin”, in  Religion et société en Amérique Latine (XVIe-XIXe siècles) : traces et destins d’une "orthodoxie coloniale", Cahiers des Amériques Latines, 67, 2011, pp. 29-54. 

GAILLEMIN, Bérénice. “Images mémorables pour un texte immuable. Les catéchismes pictographiques testériens (Mexique, XVIe-XIXe) ", Gradhiva, 13, 2011, pp. 204-225.