Tierra Natal: Athanasius’s Desert as Mestiza Homeland
This chapter examines Athanasius of Alexandria’s well-known hagiography of the first desert saint, Antony. By looking closely at the text—and in particular the description of the ever-growing desert imagined by Athanasius—I suggest some touchstones of borderland space that demonstrate this desert to be a borderland. In Anzaldúan terms, the ascetics of Athanasius’s desert give a sense of communal identity. In this way, identity as a stable category of individuality is undermined and so is the notion of solitary holiness. It is the community of ascetics that are the supporting characters of Antony’s Life and it is the community that contributes to the construction of Christian subjectivity. In the end, Athanasius has described the desert as a homeland, or better said, a tierra natal—a land that gives birth to something new. What is new, is a mestiza identity—the desert ascetic.