Interview: Camille Leon Angelo


Yale University

Areas of Interest/Research:

Archaeology, Late Antiquity, Ancient Christianity, Roman and Late Antique Egypt, Material Culture, Visual Culture, Gender, Sexuality and Queer Studies, Monasticism 

What is it about your field that you love researching?

I am fascinated by the diversity, imagination, and eccentricities of ancient Christian communities and their spaces. It’s so common for universalizing narratives and historiographic assumptions to eclipse this weirdness. So interrogating the most basic assumptions about ancient Christianity to reveal a plurality of practice and personal experiences is exciting. I love that my training as an archaeologist allows me to bring new evidence and theoretical approaches to bear on the study of late antiquity. 

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

The late antique built environment—real and imagined— shaped gendered subjectivities. 

What is your current research about?

I am particularly interested in the tangible ways that the late antique landscape shaped performances and experiences of monasticism. Much of my current research draws upon the material remains, which I documented as part of my work with the Yale Monastic Archaeology Project. I am looking forward to sharing one aspect of my recent work at next year’s annual the North American Patristics Society meeting; my paper challenges and complicates Peter Brown’s notion of the holy man through a critical evaluation of the archaeological and epigraphic record for the phenomenon. 

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

As a woman in the fields of Near Eastern Archaeology and Late Antiquity Studies, I am indebted to so many badass, brilliant, trailblazing women scholars who came before me and created space in the academy for me. Among them Iris Love has my deep admiration. She spoke truth to power, outing objects within the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection as forgeries, and a crumbling head in the basement of the British Museum as Praxiteles’ lost statue of Aphrodite—all to the chagrin of the institutions’ older, male curators. She also placed great importance on public engagement, making her work available and accessible to institutions and individuals outside the academy. I most appreciate Love for the way she was unapologetically and unabashedly herself—brilliant and boisterous, queer and comical. Love taught me that I could and should bring my whole self to even the driest of academic spaces. 

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

At the heart of my work are theories of gender and sexuality, space, materiality, and bodies. I return to Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter frequently as I attempt to critique the false gender dichotomies and binaries which have been imposed onto the spaces of antiquity. To theorize materiality, agency, and phenomenology, I most often think with Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Touching FeelingCatherine Bell’s Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Yi-Fu Tuan’s Space and Placeand Christopher Tilley’s A Phenomenology of Landscape. I’m sure many reading this will find it heretical that the books most formative to my work have nothing to do with ancient Christianity. However, these texts complicate how I understand the world around me and my relationship to my objects of study, allowing me to undertake the historical work about which I am passionate. 

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

I have a few articles in the works, which I hope to have published soon. For now, however, you can check out the following: My review of Regina Janes’ Inventing Afterlives for the Journal of Culture and Religious Theory is here. Make sure to also check out my review of Donald K. Grayson’s Sex and Death on the Western Emigrant Trail in the forthcoming, Fall issue of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology. I also authored the entry on the New Prophecy movement for the Database of Religious History.

Where can we follow you online?

I recently joined Twitter. You can follow me @CamilleLAngelo

If we ran into you at SBL/AAR and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

This is a great question since I almost never want to talk about my field. As a member of SBL’s Student Advisory Board (SAB), I would probably first invite you to the happy hour that the SBL and AAR Student Advisory Boards co-host, happening that weekend. After that, I would tell you about the amazing exhibit I had seen at the local museum that I just visited instead of attending the panel directly related to my research. 

Unfortunately, since I can’t run into you at SBL/AAR this year and tell you about the SAB’s wonderful work, let me quickly plug the panel I’m moderating this year, co-sponsored by the SAB and the SBL Professional Development Committee. Turning Your Dissertation into a Book (S8-310) brings together editors from university and independent presses to share their tips for successfully revising your dissertation into a monograph. I hope to see you at what will be a lively and illuminating discussion. 

Other than your thesis, what research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

Currently, I am studying for my fourth and final qualifying exam and preparing to write my prospectus. Aside from that, my colleague Joshua Silver of the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design and I are working on our labor of love: the Late Antiquity Modeling Project. We marry our archaeological and architectural expertise to model the archaeological remains of several early Christian sites in the eastern Mediterranean, elucidating patterns of ritual movement and embodied worship in late antiquity. This research has given us a more robust understanding of how individuals used, experienced, and adapted their built environment, as well as the agency of these spaces in shaping individual and community practice. I am also putting together a syllabus with my dear friend and colleague Dustin Gavin on celebrity and religion. This semester, I am most excited to return as a co-convener of Yale’s Late Antiquity Reading Group (YLARG). YLARG brings together students, faculty, and members of the New Haven community to discuss common, pre-circulated, works, meet with authors, and workshop works in progress in the field of Late Antiquity. 

>> Thank you so much Camille for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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