UF Religion Undergrads Present Research on Catholic Vaporwave Art

    • What do you get when you mix traditional Catholicism with Vaporwave art? The answer is, “TradWave.”
    • TradWave is a microgenre of “cultural traditionalist themed vaporwave art with Catholic motives.” Vaporwave itself began as a sub-genre of electronic music and morphed into a visual culture of internet memes and digital art in the early 2010s.
    • Samantha Manausa (Religion major, Class of 2019) and Andrew Salyer (Religion minor, Class of 2019) recently presented a paper entitled “TradWave 伝統的な少年: Expression of traditional Catholic cultural identity through the net-based aesthetic genre of Vaporwave” at Indiana University’s Undergraduate Religious Studies Association’s Spring Symposium on March 29th-30th in Bloomington, Indiana.
    • They presented their research on TradWave, an emerging subgenre of the online aesthetic Vaporwave which communicates traditional Catholic content, and argue that TradWave will continue to grow in popularity as a vehicle for virtual Catholic culture.
    • We sat down with one of the budding scholars (Samantha Manausa) to discuss the research and the experience at the conference:
    Why did you want to do research on TradWave? What’s the main takeaway from your presentation for a broad (and non-specialist) audience?
    • We never set out with the intention of doing formal research on TradWave. It all kind of came together in a moment of serendipity—right when I learned about the IU symposium, Andrew started sending me all of these interesting TradWave images. We decided together that it would be a worthwhile topic to pursue because we are both interested in religion (of course) and because in general online cultural expressions such as memes have not been given much scholarly attention. Our third co-author, Dylan Kilby from the University of Michigan, is a family friend of mine and, coincidentally, an expert on Vaporwave.  I think an important takeaway from our research is that young traditional Catholics are creating ways to participate and engage with “meme culture” online without sacrificing their traditional Catholic identities. People tend to argue that humanity is drifting away towards religion, but I think our research demonstrates that religion is still a significant influence, especially on culture.
  • What did you learn from the experience of presenting your research at the conference?
    • The three presenters share their research on a panel at the Indiana University’s Undergraduate Religious Studies Association’s Spring Symposium.


      Make sure to prepare! It can be a little nerve-wracking to present in front of people (especially when they’re also in religious studies). However, the organizers of the symposium made sure to create a low-pressure and friendly environment throughout the symposium so that everyone felt comfortable, and we were really lucky for that. Our favorite aspect was the Q&A session that followed the presentations. It’s amazing to be surrounded by curious and creative people, and we were very inspired by the ideas that were discussed and debated.

  • What do you hope to do with your studies in religion at UF? How will you put your major/minor to work in your future career/studies?
    • After graduating in May, I plan on taking a gap year to apply for graduate and law programs. I am planning on pursuing a joint MTS-JD program so that I can continue to study religion while pursuing my law degree. One day, I hope to utilize the knowledge that I’ve gained here at UF (and the knowledge I will continue to gain) to change the world for the better.  My time at UF as a Religion major has been crucial for developing my academic and professional interests; my classes here helped me to find and develop the link between religion and law that I wish to study in the future. The department has given me a crucial foundation in religious studies that will probably help me for the rest of my life.
  • What is your favorite thing about studying with UF’s Department of Religion?
    • The professors! Not only are they incredibly supportive and understanding, but they lead by example—their clear passion for religious studies has always inspired me to follow my curiosity and continue learning. I especially appreciate how each professor strives to make the classroom environment open and respectful so that discussion and debate can occur as constructively as possible. Each professor has taught me far more than what is in the syllabus, and it has made a lasting impact on me as a student and academic.