Envisioning Eternity

Women and Purgatory in the Seventeenth-Century Spanish World

A podcast episode from Reverb Effect, produced by the University of Michigan Department of History

During the seventeenth century, Spaniards attempted to map and situate not just the Americas, but also otherworldly spaces like Purgatory. How did women participate in this knowledge production?

In the seventeenth century, Spaniards understood Purgatory to be as much of a place—indeed one capable of being seen and even visited—as its newly established colonies in the New World. Otherworldly spaces like hell, purgatory, and limbo became part of a “colonizing imaginary,” a worldview that included the cartographic project of mapping and claiming places and peoples far beyond Iberian shores. 

Yet such projects have traditionally and historically been interpreted as the purview of men—missionaries, colonizers, and conquistadors who traveled across the Atlantic to participate in the entangled projects of conversion, colonization, and conquest. Hayley Bowman explores the ways in which women, too, contributed to this system of knowledge production. Female mystics envisioned and visited such places by spiritual means, wielding their own authority and contributing to how early modern Spaniards understood not just the afterlife, but their own position in the wider world and cosmos.

Full Episode Transcript

View a transcript of the episode, including endnotes and a suggested reading list.

Podcasting and Research

In this column for AHA Perspectives, I reflect on how producing a podcast episode affected how I approach research.

Interview with Nancy E. van Deusen

Read a transcript of my full interview with Professor Nancy E. van Deusen.

Spotlight on Reverb Effect

In this interview, I discuss my experience as season producer and host of Reverb Effect with the University of Michigan Department of History’s public engagement and professionalization coordinator, Taylor Sims.