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A case of empire envy? German Jesuits meet an Asian mystic in Spanish America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2007

Ulrike Strasser
Department of History, 200 Murray Krieger Hall, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-3275, USA E-mail:


This essay deals with the hagiographic afterlife of Catarina de San Juan, the seventeenth-century slave from Asia who became a renowned mystic in colonial Mexico, in writings by German Jesuits, notably Joseph Stöcklein’s popular Welt-Bott. Why and how was Catarina de San Juan’s story told for a German-speaking audience in Central Europe? The specific German appropriations of her vita suggest that missionary writings could serve as a transmission belt for ‘colonial fantasies’, linking the early modern period when the Holy Roman Empire did not have colonies to the modern period when the German Nation acquired colonial holdings in the Pacific.

© 2007 London School of Economics and Political Science

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Many thanks to Michelle Molina, the participants of the German History Workshop in Southern California, and the two anonymous readers for their thoughtful feedback on earlier versions of this article, and to the staff of Special Collections at UC Riverside and UC Irvine, above all Jackie Dooley, for making it possible to work on key primary source materials without travelling halfway around the world.