Member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and thereby authorized to supervise theses and Full Professor, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, and Acting Director of the ICAS

2005 - PhD, Harvard University
1998 - MA, Harvard Divinity School
1993 - BA, Carleton University

DMS 10112

Work Number: 613-562-5800 ext. 1176

Work E-mail: eanderso@uOttawa.ca

Emma Anderson


A Word from the Director


Member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and thereby authorized to supervise theses.

Prof. Emma Anderson joined the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa in 2005, the same year she concluded her doctorate at Harvard University.  Prof. Anderson teaches a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses, though her primary area of research involves native-Catholic religious interactions in North America since the seventeenth century.

Prof. Anderson’s most recent book is entitled The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, November 2013). The work explores the history of devotion to eight Jesuit missionaries slain by native people during the 1640s, a decade of unprecedented disease, dislocation and warfare across the colonial northeast. The book explores how these violent encounters were understood by all participants: plumbing the perspectives and motivations of the missionaries, their native slayers, and those native Catholics who, although they died alongside the “Jesuit martyrs,” have yet to receive comparable recognition as martyrs by the Catholic Church. It also traces the evolution of the martyrs’ saintly “afterlife” (their continual remembering and reinvention in the Catholic collective imagination) from the 1640s to the present, arguing that the cult of the martyrs was critical to the formation of a distinctively North American Catholic identity.

Anderson’s Death and Afterlife was named one of the top ten books in religion by the online journal Religion Dispatches. It was also selected by the Catholic Journal, America: The National Catholic Review as their Book Club selection February and March of 2014. In May 2014, Paul Harvey (Chair of the History Department at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and webmaster of the (Religions and American History blog) conducted a wide-ranging and in-depth interview with Anderson about Death and Afterlife.

Anderson’s award-winning first book, Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert documented the fascinating and poignant true story of Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan, a seventeenth-century Innu man who, as a child, spent five years in a French monastery before being sent home as a missionary to his people. So changed was the adolescent by his experiences in France that, when told of the plan to return him to Canada, he reported asked: “But my Fathers, how can you want me send me back to those beasts who do not know God?” Robbed of both his traditional religious identity and critical survival skills by his French sojourn, Pastedechouan had difficulty winning the acceptance of his community upon his return. Suspended between two worlds, he ultimately became alienated from his native community and his missionary mentors, an alienation which would ultimately cost the young man his life. Les Presses de l’Université Laval published a French-language translation of Betrayal of Faith in 2009 under the title La Trahison de la foi: Le parcours tragique d’un converti autochtone à l’époque coloniale.

Courses taught

  • SRS1191 Religion, Culture, and Identity in Canada
  • SRS1591 La religion, la culture, et l’identité au Canada
  • SRS2386 Missionaries, Medicine Men, and Methodists: Selected Topics in the History of Religion in Canada
  • SRS2781 Christianisme, culture, et changement
  • SRS2786 L’histoire de la religion au Canada
  • SRS3110 Religion, Spirituality, and Culture in Contemporary Western Society
  • SRS3139 Religious Encounters in the Colonial Americas
  • SRS3140 Divine Images and Sacred Stories: Art, Religion, and Mythology
  • SRS3141 Gender and Piety: Women and North American Christianity
  • SRS4907 Dialogue, Imposition, and Resistance: Aboriginal-EuroCanadian Religious Interactions, 1600-Present
  • SRS5918 The Sacred Gaze, Religion, Art, and Culture
  • SRS6907 Selected Topics in Christianity: Miracles, Healings and Apparitions: Interpreting Extraordinary Religious Phenomena 
  • SRS6907 Selected Topics in Christianity: Aboriginal Peoples and Christianity
  • SRS6907 Selected Topics in Christianity: Understanding Christian Martyrdom
  • SRS6907 Selected Topics in Christianity : Christian Pilgrimage
  • SRS 6907: Selected Topics in Christianity: Saints and Heretics

Recent Selected publications


The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013

La Trahison de la foi: le parcours tragique d’un converti autochtone à l’époque coloniale. Québec: Les Presses de L’Université Laval, 2009.

The Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Recent Book Chapters

"'Thine Own by Adoption:” Conversion, Integration, and Fictive Kinship in the Life of Thérèse Oionhata, Seventeenth-Century Wendat Convert," in Christian West and Mary Dunn, eds. Intimacies: Intersubjectivity and the Formation of the Religious Subject in the Modern. Forthcoming, 2017.

"Pilgrims’ Presence:  Catholic Continuity in Contemporary Quebec," in Hillary Kaell,ed. Religious Lives and Landscapes in Quebec, 1960s to the Present. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. Forthcoming, 2016.

“‘Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Woods:’ Counterfactual History and the Impact of a Single Native Life," in Paul-Andre Dubois and Jean-Francois Plante, eds.Les Récollets en Amérique: Traces et Memoire. Quebec City, QC: Les presses de l'Université Laval, 2016.

“‘My Spirit Found a Unity with this Holy Man:’ A Nun’s visions and the Negotiation of Pain and Power in Seventeenth Century New France,” in Plane, Ann-Marie and Tuttle, Leslie, eds.  Dreams, Dreamers, and Visions in the Early Modern Atlantic World.  Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press 2013, p. 185-204

Recent Journal Articles

“‘White’ Martyrs and ‘Red’ Saints: The Ongoing Distortions of Hagiography on Historiography,” American Catholic Studies Journal. Forthcoming, September 2016.

Television Interviews

  • CTV News Ottawa Evening News at Six - Interview with Eric Longley on the Significance of Pope Francis' Visit to the United States. September 25, 2015. Aired at 6:09 pm (4 mins). View interview.
  • CTV News Channel Afternoon with Merella Fernandez - Interview on Pope Francis' Canonization of Junipero Serra. September 23, 2015. Aired at 3:45 pm. View interview. 
  • CTV New Channel Weekend with Scott Laurie - Interview on Pope Francis' Visit to Cuba and the United States. September 20, 2015. View interview.

Radio and Newspapers Interviews

Awards and achievements

2014 Awarded the Franklin Research Grant and the Phillips Fund Grant for Native American Research. Both grants are administered by the American Philosophical Society

2012 Young Researcher of the Year Award
Faculty of Arts,
University of Ottawa
The Young Researcher of the Year Award recognizes outstanding achievement in research among junior faculty at the University.

2012 Finalist, Capital Educators’ Awards, Ottawa Network for Education 
The Capital Educators’  Awards recognize excellence in teaching in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.  Anderson was one of nine University of Ottawa professors to be selected as a Finalist from among 214 University of Ottawa nominees, and 560 overall nominees across the National Capital Region.

2008 American Academy of Religion's Best First book in the History of Religions prize – Book Award

2008  Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize for the Best Book in French Colonial History 
French Colonial Historical Society 

2008 CBC Radio’s “Tapestry” Show 
Anderson discussed her book, which recounts the fascinating true story of Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan, a seventeenth-century Innu boy sent to France for baptism, with host Mary Heinz. 

2007 Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences Aid to Scholarly Publications Program  (Grant given to support translation of Anderson’s first book, Betrayal of Faith, into French)

2007-2010  Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Standard Research Grant Standard Research Grant

Fields of Interest

  • Le contact religieux entre les Européens et les peuples autochtones en l’Amérique du Nord historiquement
  • L’histoire religieuse de l’Amérique du Nord
  • Les religions autochthones
  • Le Catholicisme français après le concile de Trente
  • La conversion et « l’apostasie »
  • Miracles Healings and Marian Apparitions
  • Material Culture and Religion
  • Popular Religion
  • Religion dans le Canada contemporain
  • La religion et la violence à l’époque coloniale
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