Olaya Sanfuentes is an Associate Professor in the History Department of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She received her PhD in Art History from Universitat Autónoma of Barcelona. Her research has focused on material religion, especially on the devotion of Saint James the Apostle both in terms of iconography and rituality. She has also done research on the celebration of Christmas in Chile during the last two centuries. Her publications include: “From the Feast Day in Belén to the Museum in Salta: Three-Dimensional Images of Saint James the Apostle in Two Different Contexts” in Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief (Vol 13, 2017); “Christmas Nativity Scenes in Late Nineteenth-Century Santiago de Chile” in The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture (in press); and “San Santiago de Belén: Un Guerrero más allá de las Fronteras,” in Fronteras: Procesos y Practicas de Integración y Conflicto entre Europa y América (siglos XVI-XX) (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2016).

At Bard Graduate Center she would like to develop the concept of distance that is articulating the discussion this year. She proposes a definition of distance as a subjective concept (depending on subjects individually and collectively) mediated by objects, through the specific case of the Christmas present. The specificity of the gift is capable of shortening or widening the distances among the individuals. The value assigned to what is given carries implicitly the kind of relation we want to establish with our counterpart. Since she has already worked on the topic of Christmas presents in Santiago de Chile at the beginning of the twentieth century, she would like to collate her preliminary conclusions with specialists, as well as delve into the case of New York for a comparative analysis. For this she would like to have conversations with experts in the area of material culture and do her research at the BGC Library and the New York Public Library.