Facing Florida is the third volume of a series sponsored by the Academy of American Franciscan History and Flagler College exploring the Franciscan legacy in the Spanish Borderlands. This volume focuses specifically on early modern southeastern America. The volume’s multidisciplinary approach, Dr. Kathleen Deagan notes in the introduction, provides us “with new multivalent scholarship that often challenges prevailing assumptions about motives, social relations and power structures in the mission systems.”
Despite the diversity of topics in the volume, several thematic threads run through the essays. One is a concern with locating belief, motive and intention in past actors. Eliciting thought and belief in the past is a notoriously murky undertaking, but one that is directly relevant to understanding the legacy of the Franciscan project in America. Another thread in the volume is a concern with language and meaning, particularly in the ways language has conditioned how we understand the past from written and iconographic sources. A third is “exemplars,” with a meaning similar to that used by Franciscan friars in conversion. Many of the essays in the volume incorporate historical anecdote, but some of the contributors highlight the ways that foregrounding a particular individual or event can bring important but underrepresented issues into sharper focus.
The result is an important new collection that explores innovative avenues in the study of southeastern American Indian culture and religion prior to the 1900s.