My research blends cultural sociology and comparative-historical methods to study charisma, religion, and power, specifically interactions between charismatic Christian communities and political structures in society.
CHARISMATIC COMMUNITIES & PURITAN MASSACHUSETTS
My main research project, expanding off of my thesis, examines "charismatic communities" as a theoretical concept that synthesizes Weber’s theory of charismatic authority and Shils’ idea of the charismatic propensity. In my theoretical work, a charismatic community is one which is united by emotional bonds forged out of “enthusiasm, or of despair and hope,” and which is considered extraordinary, with capacities to reach the divine or the exceptional, by members who are drawn in by affect and who are invested out of complete personal devotion to their shared revelatory experiences rather than to an individual leader. Devotion to shared revelatory experiences is what first and most clearly separates the concept of the charismatic community from the dimension of authority centered on an individual leader. In the community, the embodiment of charisma is sourced in each person by the dutiful recognition of the shared preternatural mission. Revelatory experiences are defined as personal events that impart or disclose some measure of previously unknown information about the state of the world or of the self, and which rouse feelings of devotion, based on this knowledge, to a divine or extraordinary cause. By examining the early years of the New England Puritan project, my work reveals more about what factors sustain charismatic communities, and specifically sheds light on the importance of the audience in maintaining and routinizing the legitimate authority of the communal mission.
Going forward, I am interested in developing a stronger theoretical foundation for the charismatic community during this time period, with a deeper look at power relations in the settlement, as well as expanding on the idea of community members with "liminal" statuses (like, after the Halfway Covenant, for example, or the ministry of Anne Hutchinson).
American evangelicalism & higher education
In 2014, I wrote a quantitative paper called “Navigating Religious & Sexual Identities at a Christian College,” based on a feasibility study I launched investigating mental health disparities and educational experiences of self-identified LGBQ students (N=255) at a faith-based college in the eastern United States.
Going forward, I plan to incorporate a cultural sociological approach to this issue in order to better understand how American evangelicals, in the setting of evangelical higher education, use meaning, narratives, binaries, symbols, and rituals. I am particularly interested in the liminal (almost-but-not-quite) status of LGBTQ Christian students at these colleges, and how they negotiate seemingly competing identities, as well as how they interact with authority in the administration.
In the future...
Though these are my two current projects, I am also interested in exploring more about national identity, white Christian nationalism, cultural trauma and collective memory during and following imperial projects, and civil religion. Mainly, my current empirical interests are: early modern Britain, early American history, American evangelicalism, the Jacobite uprisings in 18th century Scotland, the 2007 U.S financial crisis, and the American presidency.
Banner photograph by Rab Fyfe.