I am an interpretive sociologist and social psychologist. My interests include the self and identity, deviance, religion and secularity, and qualitative methods. I have published twenty seven research articles, book chapters, book reviews, and other papers in journals including the Sociology of Religion, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociological Quarterly, Qualitative Sociology, and Journal of Religion and Health. I am currently Joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Secularism and Nonreligion and am editing a book with Professor Ryan Cragun called Secularity and Nonreligion with Bloomsbury Press. Most of my work to date has focused on the social psychological study of secularity and nonreligion. Below is a brief description of my primary research interests and the work with which I’m currently engaged.
My passion for sociology fuels and guides my research agenda. Sociology is widely recognized as one of the broadest social sciences, covering a wide range of substantive topics and questions. I have been able to put my general sociological training to use on specific questions and settings that I find interesting while demonstrating how apparently narrow topics can provide insights on broader social forces and processes. Deviance, the self, identity, religion/irreligion and social movements are examples of the range of topics I have so far explored and integrated into my research. I enjoy challenging myself on theoretical, empirical, and methodological questions in my work. This is why I have found it important to constantly read and stay abreast of developments and issues in my substantive areas of interest, as well as collaborate with scholars from different disciplines and methodological orientations. Some of this has resulted in mixed-methods publications, and has also connected me with an expanding network of scholars across the social sciences from around the country and the world.
Most of my work to date has centered on qualitative research using in-depth interviews, participant observation, and content/textual analysis of secular/nonreligious groups in the United States and Europe. “Nonreligion” is a rapidly growing area of sociological research, and I was able to become involved – and take a leading role in – this developing field. Having been ignored or overlooked for decades in both sociology and religious studies, beginning around 2008 through the present, a flurry of research, including my own, has emerged. Three of my articles have been highly cited. The first of these articles, published in 2011 in Sociology of Religion, deals with the identity formation and trajectories of self-identified secularists, atheists, and agnostics. The second and third, both published in 2013 in Sociology of Religion and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, examine the group dynamics of secular humanist and atheist organizations. Scholars across disciplines are taking increasing interest in this area of research, and new journals, books, and other sources are beginning to be solely dedicated empirically and theoretically to the topic of nonreligion. In just a handful of years, this has become an area of study in its own right, apart from simply being a sub-topic of religion, and I have been fortunate to be involved from the beginning.
My most recent work on the Sunday Assembly, a growing international network of secular congregations that began in London, has lead to book chapters, editorials, and my forthcoming article in Qualitative Sociology titled, “Can the Secular be the Object of Belief and Belonging? The Sunday Assembly.” I secured several sources of internal funding (including from an international program funding source) to conduct this research since my two-year review, and am proud of the work I have been able to produce from it. I have recently been asked to present my research at the Kalamazoo chapter of the Sunday Assembly, which signals a broader public interest in the work that I do that goes beyond an academic audience.
Because of its relative newness and developing avenues of related research involving opportunities both methodologically and empirically, I plan to continue my own research in this area. This will help me develop my expertise and hone an increasingly visible specialty area. However, my research agenda is not dedicated solely to this subject. Having gained mastery as a social psychologist in subjects such as deviance, identity, and social movements, I plan to investigate other marginal groups in society through the qualitative techniques I have honed over years. Additionally, because of my experience with the literature on the sociology of religion, I have continued to gather data and begin analysis on religious groups, including Mormonism, in order to conduct analyses through the social psychological framework from which I have developed my expertise.
I have been active at professional academic conferences as a junior faculty in the sociology department. Over just the last three academic years, I have presented original research representing WMU at nine regional, national, and international professional conferences, and participated in other capacities at additional conferences and meetings. I have presented my research at the annual meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, The American Academy of Religion, and the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network. Furthermore, with funding from a variety of sources (see below) I was able to engage in international travel to present my work in Great Britain at the European Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction in Manchester England. This has afforded me the opportunity to meet and collaborate with scholars from many different parts of the globe, and I expect this will further facilitate the development of important relationships that will yield professional dividends well into the future.