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Dr. Joy Palacios


Contact information


Educational Background

B.A. Comparative History of Ideas , University of Washington, 2001

Ph.D. Performance Studies, University of California, 2012



My research focuses on the way large organizations, such as churches and businesses, use performance and ritual to foster modes of devotion that generate authority, maintain institutions, and forge communities. Highly interdisciplinary in nature, my research consists of two streams, one historical and the other ethnographic. 

In Ceremonial Splendor: Performing Priesthood in Early Modern France (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022), I used archival methods and performance theory to study priestly training and liturgical practice in early modern France (1630-1730) to better understand how the Catholic Church sought to renew its authority by differentiating priests from actors, masses from plays, and the Church from the state. My next early modern projects explore “modesty” as a bodily experience, a mode of religious expression, and a strategy for encountering the unknown in New France, and the organizational structures developed by early modern religious communities.

Prompted by the observation that in a capitalist economy brand affiliation bears a resemblance to religious faith, my second stream of research examines the way big businesses use performance and ritual to help people connect to their mission. Supported by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, this project, entitled, “Business Ritualization: Religious Performance in Corporate North America,” uses ethnographic observation and interviews to examine how, when, and why North American corporations use rituals to coordinate the behavior of their employees and partners and bind people to the organization.


Participation in university strategic initiatives


Course number Course title Semester
RELS 205 LEC 01 01 Religion and the Good Life 2021
RELS 309 LEC 01 01 Religious Experience 2021
RELS 335 LEC 01 01 Ritual and Religion 2020