American Sociological Association Section on

Sociology of Religion

 

ASA Home Page

 

Winter 2002 Newsletter



Volume VIII, Number 2 - Winter 2002


Contents:

Aftermath of 9/11
Chair's Column
Section Candidates
Publishing
Faculty Opening
Nominations for Awards
Member Publications
Member News
Conference Announcement

 


Officers of the Section

Chair:
Rhys Williams, Southern Illinois University, willrhys@siu.edu
Chair-Elect:
Michele Dillon, Yale University, Michele.dillon@yale.edu

Past Chair:
Nancy T. Ammerman, Hartford Seminary, nta@hgc.edu
Secretary/Treasurer:
William Silverman
Newsletter Editor:
Joseph B. Tamney, Ball State University, jtamney@gw.bsu.edu

Council:
Penny Edgell Becker (03), Cornell University, peb4@cornell.edu
Michael Emerson (03), Rice University, moe@rice.edu

Harriet Hartman (02), Rowan University, hartman@rowan.edu
Dan Olson (04), Indiana University - South Bend, dolson@iusb.edu
Milagaros Peña (04), University of Florida, mpena@socufl.edu
R. Steven Warner (02), University of Illinois-Chicago, rswarner@uic.edu
Melissa J. Wilde (02), University of California - Berkeley, mwilde@uclink4.berkeley.edu


In the Aftermath of the 11 September Tragedy

While it is still too soon to draw substantive conclusions about religion’s role following September 11th, the ongoing research of the Pew Gateway Cities Project highlights some of the complex ripple effects on immigrant religious communities. I want to present three elementary and overlapping layers of religious involvement in Los Angeles that draw out the ways in which religion permeates and reveals nuances in a society responding to crisis.

First, on a spiritual level, with the telling exception of many Muslims and Sikhs who were afraid to leave their homes following the attacks, public religious participation peaked. Houses of worship were de facto gathering places in the search for meaning and consolation. For some, this strengthening of faith came inadvertently. Muslims and Sikhs, for example, described delving into their faith to fortify their newfound roles as religious and ethnic spokespersons.

Second, as gathering places for spiritual concerns, religious institutions also became places to voice the social concerns of specific populations. Salvadorans and Cambodians sought solace in churches and from Buddhist priests as brutal atrocities flooded their memories. Their past had resurfaced and their future in the security of the United States was now seemingly under siege. Filipino and Central American communities, who were hit particularly hard by the strapped service economy, turned to their religious institutions for aid. Overburdened with requests, places of worship engaged interfaith coalitions in order to garner citywide assistance.

Finally, on a cultural level, new discourses are emerging about who we are as Americans and how we interact as a people. A meeting between the FBI and the Muslim community of Orange County illustrated the essential role that both leaders and laity will play in forging new relationships across sectors in society.

These rudimentary categories indicate the scope of religious involvement and highlight the complexities that lie ahead. Immigrant communities provide particularly rich lenses through which we view alternative and complementary responses in the wake of September 11th. Considering them thoughtfully now will strengthen our social fabric in the future.

 

CHAIR’S COLUMN

In the past couple months I have received the regular newsletter of every professional sociological organization to which I belong. And every Chair’s, or President’s column of every newsletter has addressed life since September 11th and the ways in which sociologists can respond.

I don’t want to be left out, so this column will address those issues as well. But, of course, there are few academics who should be more central to public understanding of the current world tensions than sociologists of religion. And much of that public understanding will happen in and through the media. Thus, I want to talk briefly about talking with the media.

I have received at least a half-dozen calls from reporters, looking for comment on September 11th, the aftermath, and how things may have changed since then. This even though I have just moved to a new university and left the reporters I knew around SIU. What has struck me about the recent requests is the breadth of concerns that involve some reference to religion. Just some of the topics upon which I have been queried include the rise in church attendance, American Muslims, civil religion and patriotism, and religious violence more generally. On a few questions where I really had no idea, I referred reporters to others, unsure, of course, whether they would follow up. But for many others, I offered perspectives (if not always "answers") even if the topic was not directly in my research area. I want to offer a thought or two on why I think sociologists of religion should be doing this, and how to make it easier on yourself.

First, after an event such as 9/11, where public and private emotions are so intense and volatile, any voice of reason – backed with information – is welcome. The general American public was woefully uninformed about Islam, Afghanistan, religious extremism in the modern world, or the ways in which Israeli-Palestinian issues played into these events. I would venture that anyone who has taught a sociology of religion course could have helped raise the level of real information available to the public on at least some of these topics. Further, the immediate and often understandable tendency to demonize enemies – or to reduce their actions to individual psychological problems – could be usefully countered (if not overcome) by some basic principles of understanding social structures, again something almost all sociologists can do.

Moreover, if sociologists do not do this service of public information, someone else will be sought out and quoted. Often these others have little interest in reasoned public debate. But journalists need quotes, and like to have academic "experts" to legitimate perspectives. I think it a public service to put what legitimacy we have behind measured, reasoned, public debate.

This leads directly, of course, to the frustrations of actually talking with reporters. Often they have already decided on the story’s "hook," and they are only looking for legitimating supportive quotes. In my experience, this is particularly true of electronic journalists; one knows that no matter what erudition one offers, at most 30 seconds of soundbite will actually make the story.

Even print journalists, no matter how eager to get background information and contextualizing insight, want pithy quotes and packaged nuggets of wisdom. Railing against this fact will not change it, and neither will avoiding the media in order to preserve the purity and complexity of one’s insights. And, one cannot assume that news consumers will absorb story content uncritically. It is not easy to know what consumers get from media stories, anymore than we can always predict what students get out of our lectures. Fears of misinterpretation cannot be an excuse for refusing to try to communicate.

Instead, I urge you to use the soundbite dimensions of journalism to your advantage. First, don’t speak off-the-cuff. If a reporter calls, ask them what they want to talk about, and the time deadline for filing the story. Then arrange a callback time; most reporters are happy to oblige, particularly after you earn a reputation for always calling back. In the interim, jot notes to yourself about what you want to say – the points you think most essential to communicate. While a journalist may learn something from an impromptu lecture you offer on the phone, it won’t make it into the story. There is a reason politicians stick to "talking points" – it gets across the message they want to send. Don’t be afraid to write out "quotes" for yourself, and then read them back to the reporter. And two, or maybe three, central points at most.

Electronic media will want either audio or visual tape. Particularly with TV, you will have some chance to collect your thoughts before the crew arrives. But the strategy is the same – formulate your top three points and repeat them relentlessly. I will often find two or three different ways to say the same thing (a skill I learned from teaching intro-level sociology classes), and then repeat those sentences one after another. That way, whatever 15 seconds they select will have my main message in it.

I understand that my attitude and strategy basically play into the soundbite journalism that has often produced superficial and sensational public debate. But we are not going to change that, and avoiding it only gives more time to those who want the attention but would rather not have their ideas scrutinized for more than a soundbite. We have a responsibility to offer measured and reasoned critique and information – even if we only get a moment to do so.

 

PUBLISHING

The American Religion Data Archive (ARDA) just completed a major software upgrade. Church and church membership data can now be mapped for the nation or individual states online, and summary membership reports for all participating denominations can be compiled by counties, states, metropolitan areas, and the nation. The software upgrade also allows users to browse all files in the ARDA, conduct improved searches, and provides a software enhanced codebook. The ARDA address is: www.TheARDA.com

Roger Finke
Department of Sociology
The Pennsylvania State University Office:
211 Oswald Tower
University Park, PA 16802-6207
Phone: 814-865-6257
Fax: 814-863-7216
E-mail: rfinke@psu.edu

 

CANDIDATES FOR SECTION OFFICES

Roger Finke received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1984 and is currently Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Penn State University, where he is also affiliated with the Population Research Institute. Roger served on the executive council of the ASA Sociology of Religion Section from 1995-97 and was a member of the Section’s Graduate Student Paper Competition Committee from 1998-2000. In addition, he has served on the executive boards of the Association for the Sociology of Religion and the Religious Research Association, and as the program chair for the Association for the Sociology of Religion annual meeting. Roger founded the American Religion Data Archive (www.TheARDA.com) in 1997 and continues to serve as the Director. He has published in numerous social science journals, including the American Sociological Review, American Economic Review, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Review of Religious Research, Economic Inquiry, Annals, Journal of Church and State, and others. His most recent co-authored book, Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion (University of California Press, 2000), received the 2001 ASA Sociology of Religion Book Award.

R. Stephen Warner is Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where he has taught since 1977, having previously taught at Yale University, Sonoma State College, and the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in 1972. Originally trained in sociology theory, he became a sociologist of religion in order to make theoretical sense of ethnographic fieldwork he conducted in the Presbyterian church of Mendocino, Calif. in the 1970s; the first fruit of his new subdisciplinary affiliation was the book New Wine in Old Wineskins (1988), which was awarded the 1989 SSSR Distinguished Book award. His major theoretical statement in sociology of religion is the article "Work In Progress Toward a New Paradigm for the Sociological Study of Religion in the United States" in American Journal of Sociology (March 1993), which was awarded the SSSR Distinguished Article prize. His other books are Sociological Theory: Historical and Formal (1976; co-authored with Neil J. Smelser), Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration (1998; co-edited with Judith G. Wittner), and Korean American Religion: Pilgrims and Missionaries From a Different Shore (2001; co-edited with Ho-Youn Kwon and Kwang Chung Kim). He has published numerous essays on, among other things, American congregations, gay religion, and on immigrant religious expressions. A member of ASA since 1964, Warner has served on several ASA committees. He has been a member of the Theory Section since 1975, having served two terms on its council and as its chair in 1980-81. He is a charter member of the Religion Section and currently serves on its council.


COUNCIL

Christopher G. Ellison received his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1991, and he is currently the Elsie and Stanley E. (Skinny) Adams, Sr. Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also affiliated with the Population Research Center. He has published more than 70 articles and chapters dealing primarily with: (1) the implications of religious involvement for mental and physical health; (2) religious variations in family life, with particular attention to conservative Protestant childrearing; and (3) the role of religion among diverse racial and ethnic populations, particularly African Americans. In recent years, his work has appeared in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Annual Review of Sociology, JSSR, and various other outlets. He is currently Principal Investigator of an NIA-funded project to examine racial and ethnic variations in the effects of religious involvement on health and mortality risk among older adults. Ellison has served as membership chair of the ASA sociology of religion section, and on the executive councils of SSSR, RRA, and the Association for the Sociology of Religion. In addition, he has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Sociology of Religion, and American Journal of Sociology, among other journals, and he recently completed a three-year term as co-editor of the Review of Religious Research.

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of African American Studies and Sociology at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She is also the director of the College's African American Studies Program. She received her Ph.D. from Northeastern University, Department of Sociology, in 1979. Her teaching repertoire includes courses in "Sociology of Religion" and "African American Religious Experience." Her current projects include research on contemporary black churches, the Sanctified Church, and the work of W.E.B. Du Bois. Her most recent book is If It Wasn't For The Women: Black Women's Experience And Womanist Culture In Churches And Community (Orbis Books, 2001). She is currently at work on an introduction to the republication of W.E.B. Du Bois's 1924 book, The Gift Of Black Folk: The Negro In The Making Of America (Altamira Press, forthcoming). She is active in the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the American Academy of Religion, and the Association for Sociology of Religion and is a charter member of the Sociology of Religion Section.

Prema Kurien received her Ph.D. from Brown University and is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California. Her book, Kaleidoscopic Ethnicity: International Migration And The Reconstruction Of Community Identities In India, is forthcoming (August 2002) from Rutgers University Press. She is completing a second book, Multiculturalism And Immigrant Religion: The Development Of An American Hinduism (under contract with Rutgers University Press) and has a third project in progress, "Establishing an 'Ethnic' Christianity: The Challenges Facing Indian Immigrant Churches in the United States". She was on the Membership Committee of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in 2001.

Peggy Levitt is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College and Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She has a Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This year she is a Fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard's Kennedy School and a Fellow at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at Yale University. During this time, she is working on a comparative study of the relationship between transnational religion and politics which is funded by the Ford Foundation. Next year, she will be a Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University. Her book, The Transnational Villagers, was published by University of California Press in July 2001. She is also co-editor, with Mary Waters, of Transnational Practices Among The Second Generation which is due out from The Russell Sage Foundation in 2002. In addition, she has published numerous articles and book chapters including "Local-Level Global Religion: The Case of U.S.-Dominican migration." She has been a member of the ASA's International Migration Section Council since 1998. She also co-chairs the Social Science Research Council's Working Group on Transnational Migration and is also a member of their Working Groups on Immigration and Religion and Religion and Globalization.

 

Student Representative to Council

Elaine Howard Ecklund is a PhD candidate in sociology at Cornell University. She is currently doing research for a dissertation on the influence of religious participation on the social construction of citizenship among second generation Chinese Americans and Korean Americans. She has two publications in progress, based on research from her MA thesis, which examined the role of women's leadership in six local Catholic congregations. She was selected to participate in the Pew Mentoring Program and has received the Cornell Sociology Department Teaching Award, as well as a Religious Research Association research award. She has presented papers at ASA, SSSR/RRA and the Association for Asian American Studies.

Phil Schwadel is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the Pennsylvania State University. His dissertation will examine the effects of education on religion in the U.S. He received his B.A. in religious studies with a minor in sociology from the University of Florida in 1997 and his M.A. in sociology from the Pennsylvania State University in 1999. He has served as a teaching assistant for both introductory sociology and sociological methods courses and has taught introductory sociology and will teach social problems in 2002. For the last year and a half he has been a research associate for the American Religion Data Archive. Phil has also been active at the national conferences, presenting papers at ASA in both 2000 and 2001. Along with a variety of papers in progress, he has a forthcoming article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and an article under review at Review of Religious Research.

 

FACULTY OPENING

Hartford Institute for Religion Research
Hartford Seminary

Hartford Seminary seeks applicants for a mid to senior level faculty appointment in its Hartford Institute for Religion Research (HIRR), effective fall 2002.HIRR maintains a tradition of rigorous, policy-relevant research that links social science disciplines to the practice of faith communities.

Hartford Seminary is a multi-faith theological school that prepares leaders, scholars and religious institutions to understand and thrive in today's religiously diverse and pluralistic world. More information about the seminary and institute is available at: http://hirr.hartsem.edu.

Responsibilities of the position include: Designing and directing grant-funded and client research, Teaching in the Seminary's educational programs, Consulting with religious leaders, and Communication of research findings in a variety of print, electronic and public media.

Qualifications include: Theoretical grounding in the social scientific study of religion, Quantitative and qualitative research skills, Sensitivity to contemporary issues facing religious organizations, Familiarity with the classical theological disciplines, Preference for collaborative work and Ph.D or its equivalent.

Applications from persons of color and all faith traditions are encouraged. Applicants should submit by February 15: Resume, Names of three references and Letter of interest detailing one's research agenda and potential for working in the Seminary environment. Address application to: David A. Roozen, HIRR Search Chair.

Submit an electronic copy in Word or WordPerfect, Windows format, email attached to roozen@hartsem.edu.

AND mail a paper copy to: HIRR Search, Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105.

 

NOMINATIONS FOR AWARDS

Nominations for awards may be made by any member of the Section or by publishers. Authors are welcome to submit their own work. All nominated authors will be notified of their nominations by the Award Committee chair and must be members of the Section (or join) to remain in contention for the awards.  

Book Award 
Books published during the previous two years are eligible for the 2002 award. Nominations must be received no later than March 15, 2002 and be sent to:

Marion S. Goldman
Department of Sociology
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1291
phone: 541-346-5167
e-mail: mgoldman@oregon.uoregon.edu.


Article Award 
Peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters published in the previous two years are eligible for the 2002 award. Nominations must be received no later than April 1, 2002 and be sent to:

Benton Johnson
Department of Sociology University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1291
phone: 541-346-5009
e-mail: benjnsn@oregon.uoregon.edu.

Student Paper Award 
Either published or unpublished papers are eligible, but note that if the paper is published, it may not compete for both the student paper award and the article award. Papers of 20-40 manuscript pages (including notes, tables, and references) will be considered. Authors must be students at the time the nomination is submitted, and the papers must have been presented or published in 2001 or 2002 to be eligible for the 2002 award. Nominations must be received no later than May 1, 2002 and be sent to:

John H. Evans
School of Social Science
Institute of Advanced Study
Einstein Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540
phone: 609-734-8170
e-mail: jhevans@ucsd.edu

 

MEMBER PUBLICATIONS

John H. Evans. Playing God? Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Mitchell L. Stevens. Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

 

MEMBER NEWS

Yang Fenggang taught a "sociology of religion" course for graduate students in sociology at the People's University of China December 17, 2001-January 12, 2002. He hopes to get some books in sociology of religion translated into Chinese and published in China. He is looking for suggestions of the top 5 books in the sociology of religion besides the works by the founding fathers of sociology. Please send suggestions to fyang@usm.maine.edu.

 

CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

Dr. Richard Brown at the University of Maryland is organizing a conference called Globalizations; Cultural, Economic, Democratic to be held at the University this coming April. The conference is interdisciplinary and is a good place for intellectual exchange on the various issues involved in globalization. We think that some of the members of the Sociology of Religion section might find this conference of interest (as well as a place to possibly present some of their ideas/findings). If you would like any further information on the conference, please visit the homepage at www.bsos.umd.edu/socy/conference and/or feel free to contact Dr. Brown directly (rbrown@socy.umd.edu).

 

PLEASE SEND NEWS ITEMS FOR THE SPRING 2002 ISSUE
OF THIS NEWSLETTER BY APRIL 1, 2002 TO:

Joseph B. Tamney
Ball State University
Department of Sociology
Fax: 765-285-5920
E-mail: jtamney@gw.bsu.edu

Assistant Editor: Ross Davis
E-mail: radavis2@bsu.edu

 

 

Return to Section Home Page                     Return to ASA Home Page

Webmaster: Scott Thumma <sthumma@hartsem.edu>