Areas of Research
It seems to me that truth and meaning are interpretive. As a budding sociologist, I am interested in studying the meanings, symbols, rituals, codes, beliefs, and values that exist in society. How do people define "truth"? Do beliefs motivate action, or is it the other way around? Or perhaps it is both, and there is a cultural dialectic at work in the social world. Questions and debates such as these fascinate me, and I am happy to participate in forums that entertain them, including (but not limited to) the Center for Cultural Sociology and the Strong Program at Yale.
In the fall of 2018, I will be starting research on American tourists in Europe, a mixed-methods project motivated by cultural sociological questions of charismatic ideas, charismatic community, and tourism as a religious-like experience.
Connected to my research on charismatic ideas and shared revelations, I am naturally interested in religion, both organized, classically understood religions and religious-like phenomena. In the classic sense, I am mainly interested in studying Christianity, and researched and written on topics from antiquity to the present. Currently, I am researching phenomena that engender the same kind of affect and devotion (charisma) but that are not oriented around the divine or supernatural. Topics include CrossFit, populism, tourism, and holistic healthcare.
I have an ongoing research project investigating the staffers and volunteers of the 2016 presidential run of Senator Bernie Sanders. This project also uses the concept of the "shared revelation" and the charismatic community as it's theoretical grounding.
Charisma is a hot topic these days. But while I have found the majority of the the conversation on charisma to be focused on the charismatic individual, or instances of powerful and successful charismatic performances, I don't think enough attention is being paid to the power of the charismatic idea. My research focuses on illuminating what I think is a critical element in understanding how charisma works in the social world; I call this concept "the shared revelation." I am also interested how communities are formed around ideas.
Work on it's way to publication...
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 affect and which is considered extraordinary, with capacities to reach the divine or the exceptional, by members 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).