Valentina Ciciliot
History of Christianity and Churches

What do you teach at Ca’ Foscari? What are your main research interests?
I was born in Vittorio Veneto, in the province of Treviso, and lived for many years in Fregona, a small town at the edge of the Cansiglio forest, before moving to Venice, then Vittorio Veneto (TV), Reading (UK), South Bend (USA) and finally Treviso. I study the history of contemporary Christianity and at Ca' Foscari I teach two courses in English: North America Christianity and Christianity and Ecology. I mainly study Catholic Church history and have focused on sainthood and hagiography in contemporary times and the Catholic charismatic movement. I am also interested in the dynamics of North American Christianity. Recently, I have begun to explore the attitudes of Christian churches towards environmental issues.

What led you to pursue a research career?
I took my Bachelor's Degree in History at Ca' Foscari. I then continued my studies in the then newly opened inter-university Master's Degree in Science of Religions, between the University of Padua and Ca' Foscari. I then moved to England for my PhD at the University of Reading. I then returned to Venice for a couple of years as a research fellow, until I obtained a Marie-Sklodowska Curie scholarship, thanks to which I spent two years in the United States, at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Since October 2020, I have been a tenure-track researcher.

What are your professional references?
My professional references are those scholars who have preceded me in the discipline and who have taught me scientific rigour, interpretive brilliance and intellectual honesty with their work.

The area you have always wanted to be involved in but have not yet had the opportunity to explore?
One point that fascinates me but that I haven't had the chance to explore yet in my research is the relation between Catholic sainthood and the missionary world. I would like to study the processes of ‘enculturation’ of saints and hagiographic literature and how these processes interact in the canonisation process. The continuous reworking and reinterpretation of hagiographic models in time and space is a matter I find interesting and offers a unique perspective for the study of Catholic Church.

Have you always known that this was going to be your path?
I remember that even as a child, when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say ‘study history’. At that time, I did not know that it could really be a job and that it was not so easy to get into it, but I never gave up the idea. Thankfully, I had a good time at school, thanks to very good teachers, and my parents supported me in my choice of university studies, even though they were not convinced I would succeed. I think they saw me as a bit of a dreamer (and I am grateful to them for letting me dream). During university, and also after, I learned different jobs - waitress, shop assistant, bookseller - which for me were all plans B, if plan A - becoming a university researcher - did not work out. A dreamer, yes, but always with an eye on reality! Perseverance, determination and a bit of luck brought me where I am today.

What do teaching and researching mean to you?
For me, teaching is about growth. It is not just giving lectures, filling a knowledge gap with content or assigning a final judgement, but it is an exchange for mutual development and the service of critical thinking (which is so much needed in our time). Teaching is the visible side of the real intellectual challenge, research. Researching is about going beyond what you know, asking new questions and maybe even finding some answers, it is about keeping an open and unprejudiced mind on things. But it is also care, precision and constructive criticism. In my case, research is mostly historical investigation, and given the public role that history can also play in the present, following a rigorous method is a must.

Last update: 20/07/2023