Jethro A. E. A. Calacday

PhD Student

I am a native of the Philippines, born and raised in the countryside, in Legazpi City, Albay. After completing my undergraduate history training in 2018 at the Ateneo de Manila University, I went to Yale Divinity School in 2019 to pursue a Master of Arts in Religion, specialising in the history of Christianity. Mentored by historian and sociologist Filomeno V Aguilar, Jr at the Ateneo de Manila, I wrote a biographical study of Bishop Jorge Barlín, the first Filipino Catholic bishop appointed at the beginning of American colonial rule. With the mentorship of historians Tisa Wenger and Erika Helgen at Yale, I further deepened my interest in US Catholic history and America's rise as a global power in the 1900s. It was also at Yale that I first came into contact with and critically engaged the field of world Christianity, pioneered there in the 1980s by the late missiologist Lamin Sanneh. I am coming to Cambridge then as a historian of religion, focussing on the Philippines and American imperialism in the late nineteenth to the first half of the twentieth centuries.

Supervised by Professor Andrew Preston, I will be writing a dissertation that explores the ways in which the Roman Catholic Church "made" American imperialism by looking at the case of the Philippines, America's first global imperial outpost. My main hypothesis insists that the Roman Catholic Church “made” American imperialism, and in exchange American imperialism secured the continued dominance of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. Conventional narratives in both American and Philippine studies have considered the advent of American colonial rule in the Philippines as the period in which the Church lost effective social and political influence at the cessation of the Patronato Real, the Iberian structure of church-state union which began in the late fifteenth century. My dissertation, however, challenges that narrative by critically exploring how new arrangements, mechanisms, and relationships with the American regime enabled the Catholic Church to retain its dominance without explicitly relying on the apparent modalities of political and legal structures. Through a selection of topics, I will surface the unapparent modalities through which the Church was involved in the project of empire making, and vice versa, while examining and exposing the contingency of church-state separation, the unstable definitions of secularism and religion, and the politics of religious conflict within the framework of the emergence of American formal empire.

Global Catholicism; Philippine religious history and Philippine studies broadly defined; American religious history; American imperialism; Southeast Asian history; world Christianity

Invited Lectures

2022     Lecture. Canon Law and Colonial Logic: Francisco Gaínza and the Creation of the Native Clergy in the Philippines, 1863–1879. National Historical Commission of the Philippines (Naga City), 30 July 2022.

At the Threshold of a New Patronato: The Imperial Unknowing of Fr Mariano Sevilla and Fr Manuel Roxas (1903), Christianity and Social Change in the Global South Seminar, Emmanuel College Cambridge, 28 January 2022.

2021   Anniversary Lecture at the IFI Parish of Lagonoy, Camarines Sur, Philippines. 23 January 2021. Si Padre Vicente Ramirez asin an simbahan na talingkás sa Bikol (Fr Vicente Ramirez and the independent church in Bikol).

2019   Lecture. Savage Mind Bookshop, Naga City, Philippines. 5 August 2019. Busting myths and severing halos: When was the seminary of Nueva Caceres founded?

The Third Frank Lynch, SJ Lecture in the Social Sciences. Ateneo de Naga University, Naga City, Philippines. 4 February 2019. Hagiography, biography, and the first Filipino bishop: Situating Jorge Barlín in Philippine nationalism.

2018   Bishop Francisco Gainza 200: A Regional Conference of His Legacies to the Bicolanos. Universidád de Santa Isabél, Naga City, Philippines, 6–8 December 2018.Testing Contingencies and Wagering Deviance: Bishop Francisco Gainza and the Development of the Bicolano Clergy, 1785-1898.


Conferences and Colloquia

2021   Annual Meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission. Was the bible an anting-anting? Power and the Word in the early twentieth-century Philippines. 22–24 June 2021.

2020   Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Boston, MA (moved to Zoom). 8 December 2020. Canon Law and Colonial Logic: Francisco Gaínza and the Creation of the Native Clergy in the Philippines, 1863–1879. History of Christianity and World Christianity Unit.

XI International Conference on Philippine Studies. Universidád de Alicante, Spain. 21–24 September 2020 (postponed indefinitely). Was the bible an anting-anting? Power and the Word in the early twentieth-century Philippines.

Yale Divinity Colloquium. Yale Divinity School. 27 February 2020. Was the bible an anting-anting? Power and the Word in the early twentieth-century Philippines.


Calacday, Jethro A. E. A. 2021. Racializing reform: Bishop Francisco Gaínza and the Creation of the Native Clergy in the Philippines, 1863–1879. Saysay: The Journal of Bikol History 1(1): 38–80. [link here]

Calacday, Jethro. 2021. Beyond the separation of church and state: US imperialism, Catholicism, and the Philippines in recent historiography. Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 69(2): 291–310. 

Calacday, Jethro. 2020. Review of The convents of Manila: Globalized architecture during the Iberian Union, by Pedro Luengo. Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 68(2): 277-281.

Calacday, Jethro. 2019. When was the Seminary of Nueva Caceres founded? A historiographical excursus. Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 67(2): 236–259.