Religious Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Garry Sparks

Garry Sparks

Garry Sparks

Assistant Professor

Study of Christianities, Religions of Latin America, Theories of Religion, Native American Religions

Garry Sparks holds a BA from Austin College (Sherman, Texas) in Philosophy and Spanish, an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas (Austin, Texas) and an MDiv and PhD in Religious Studies and Theology from the University of Chicago where he also taught in the College and the Writing Program. Prior to George Mason University, he taught Humanities and Theology at Christ College (the honors college) at Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, Indiana), and then was Assistant Professor of Humanities and Global Studies of Christianity at the University of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky).

His research and teaching interests focus on anthropological (socio-cultural and linguistic) and ethnohistorical understandings of theological production in the Americas, particularly among indigenous peoples. His areas include histories of Christian thought, theories of religion and of culture, religions of indigenous American peoples, and religion in Latin America. He specifically attends to the periods of first contact between Iberian mendicant missionaries and indigenous Mesoamericans as well as current religious movements like liberation theologies, “Indian” theology (teología india), Latin American Protestantisms, and the revitalization of indigenous traditionalism (such as Maya Spirituality or kojb’al). Since 1995 he has done human rights work with and conducted fieldwork and language study among the K'iche' and Kaqchikel Maya of Guatemala.

Current Research

Beginning in October 2016 he is coordinating in a multi-year collaborative project to produce a critical translation of the first volume of the Theologia Indorum ("Theology for the Indians") together with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, the American Philosophical Society, and funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more on this project:

With the award also of a National Endowment for the Humanities 2016 Summer Stipend he has begun his third book project in collaboration with Dr. Frauke Sachse (University of Bonn, Germany) tentatively titled "Pastoral Fieldnotes: Edition and Commentary of a Sixteenth-century Missionary Handbook from the Maya Highlands" (in process).

He is a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Latin American Religions.

Selected Publications


The Americas' First Theologies: Early Sources of Post-Contact Indigenous Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Book Projects

Domingo de Vico, K'iche' Maya Intellectuals, and the Theologia Indorum: Recovering the Legacy of the Americas' First Theology (under contract with the University Press of Colorado).

Pastoral Fieldnotes: Edition and Commentary of a Sixteenth-century Missionary Handbook from the Maya Highlands, with Frauke Sachse (in progress).

Articles and Chapters

“Maya Moral and Ritual Discourse: Dialogical Groundings for Consuetudinary Law.” In Journal of Religious Ethics (forthcoming 2018).

“A Sixteenth-Century Priest’s Fieldnotes among Highland Maya: Proto-Theologia as Vade mecum.” In Words and Worlds Turned Around: Indigenous Christianities in Latin America. Edited by David Tavárez (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2017).

“Presentación a los primeros capítulos de BnF Ms Amér 10.” In La Theologia Indorum parte I del fray Domingo de Vico, tomo I. Edited by Saqijix Candelaria Dominga López Ixcoy (Guatemala City: Instituto de Lingüística e Interculturalidad, Universidad Rafael Landívar, forthcoming 2017).

“How 'Bout Them Sapotes? Mendicant Translations and Maya Corrections in Early Indigenous Theologies.” In CR: The New Centennial Review (issue on translation in the global humanities) 16, no. 1 (Spring 2016):213-244.

“Primeros folios, folios primeros: Una breve aclaración acerca de la Theologia Indorum y su relación intertexual con el Popol Wuj.” In Voces: Revista semestral del Instituto de Lingüística e Interculturalidad 9, no. 2 (July-December 2014):91-142.

“The Use of Mayan 'Scripture' in the Americas’ First Christian Theology.” In Numen (International Review for the History of Religions) 61, no. 4 (August 2014):396-429.

Expanded Publication List

Articles and Chapters

“Modes of Interpretation of Indigenous Religious Ethics (of the Americas).” In The Encyclopedia of Religious Ethics. Edited by William Schweiker, Maria Antonaccio, Elizabeth Bucar, and David Clairmont (under contract with Wiley-Blackwell).

“Constructing Hyperlocal Theologies: Ethnohistorical Contextualization of ‘Indian Theology’ and jTatik Samuel’s Legacy.” In Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology 19, no. 1 (November 2013):33-53.

“Fill in the Middle Ground: Intertextuality and Interreligious Dialogue in 16th-Century Guatemala.” In Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue 5, no. 2 (February 2011):

“Nuevas campañas de extirpación de idolatría.” In Movimientos sociales y teología en América Latina. La Paz, Bolivia: Instituto Superior Ecuménico Andino de Teología (2010):116-123.

“Rumbo a una nueva Teología de la Liberación.” In Movimientos sociales y teología en América Latina. La Paz, Bolivia: Instituto Superior Ecuménico Andino de Teología (2010):209-212.

Book Reviews

MacKenzie, C. James. Indigenous Bodies, Maya Minds: Religion and Modernity in a Transnational K'iche' Community. Boulder, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2016. In Ethnohistory (forthcoming 2018).

Prieto, Andres I. Missionary Scientists: Jesuit Science in the Spanish South America, 1570-1810. Vanderbilt, Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press, 2011. In History of Religions 53, no. 1 (August 2013):107-110.

Westhelle, Vítor. After Heresy: Colonial Practices and Post-Colonial Theologies. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2010. In The Journal of Religion 91, no. 1 (January 2012):141-143.

Molesky-Poz, Jean. Contemporary Maya Spirituality: The Ancient Ways are Not Lost. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2006. In The Journal of Religion 87, no. 4 (October 2007):663-664.


Margarito's Forest / El bosque de don Margarito by Andy Carter, Allison Havens (Illustrator). New York: Hard Ball Press, 2016.

El bosque de don Margarito / Ri uk'iche'laj ri tat Margarito by Andy Carter, Allison Havens (Illustrator). Guatemala, 2016.

Grants and Fellowships

National Endowment for the Humanities, Scholarly Translations Grant (2016-2019)

Mathy Junior Faculty Research Award (2016-2017)

National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer Stipend (2016)

Courses Taught

RELI 100 Religion and the Human Experience (Introduction to Religious Studies & Theory)

RELI 235 Religion and Literature (Popol Wuj and Other Indigenous Religious Texts)

RELI 316 Modern Christian Thought (Enlightenment to the Present)

RELI 320 Religion and Revolution in Latin America (Introduction to Liberation Theology)

RELI 363 Introduction to Catholicism (A Christianity and Cultures)


PhD in Theology and Religious Studies, The University of Chicago (2011)

MDiv in Theology and Religious Studies, The University of Chicago (2004)

MA in Latin American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin (1996)

BA in Philosophy and Spanish, Austin College, Sherman, Texas (1993)

Recent Presentations

conference paper: “Maya Mapping Missionaries: Geo-theological Scope through K'iche'an Land Deeds.” American Society for Ethnohistory (ASE) annual meeting, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Oct. 2017.

invited lecture: “To God or Not to God: Comparative Sixteenth-Century Indigenous Literature and Religion.” University of Massachusetts Amherst, Sept. 2017.

panel presentation: “Religiously Appropriating Indios: 20th- and 16th-Century Theological Production from and by... well, 'Indios'.” A Symposium with Serge Gruzinski, U.S. Library of Congress (Mumford Room (6th floor), Madison Building), March 31, 2017.

conference paper: “From Proto-Theologia to K’iche’an Títulos: Dialogical Tracings of a Maya Catholicism.” American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting, Denver, Colorado, Jan. 2017.