I don't usually use this blog to "toot my own horn," but I am excited to see some of the work on the Boundaries in the American Mosaic Project finally seeing the light of day. In addition to work on whiteness and colorblindness by colleagues Doug Hartmann, Paul Croll, and Alex Manning, I have just received word that an article co-authored with Jacqueline Frost has been accepted for publication (minor revisions) in JSSR. This article elaborates our theoretical understanding of religious belief and practices as formative of symbolic boundaries that anchor identity and play a key role in status politics and claims-making for public resources. Specifically, we look at how different religious beliefs and identities intersect with structural location to shape attitudes toward racial inequality (explanations for African-American inequality and preferences for particular solutions). I also just received word that our paper on anti-atheist sentiment, a 10-year-followup to our ASR piece, has been accepted by Social Forces (shout out here to co-authors Doug Hartmann, Evan Stewart, and Joseph Gerteis). This proceeds from a similar theoretical anchor and it explains why anti-atheist sentiment is persistent and durable, shows how it is rooted in specific moral concerns that many Americans have about atheists, and explains why it "spills over" to shape attitudes toward other non-religious persons and groups.
I have several reasons to be particularly excited about this happy turn of events. First, it is quite satisfying to continue my work on religion as a basis for social inclusion and exclusion, something that has motivated my research since my long-ago dissertation project (published as Congregations in Conflict and a piece in Social Problems on race discourse in local churches) and continued through the project that led to publishing Religion and Family in a Changing Society. To look back across 25 years of work and see your ideas grow and change and lead to a coherent statement on an issue you think is important -- this, of course, means that one is getting older (grin), but it also means all that time and work added up to something substantial. We don't talk about this enough in academics, I think. Especially now with all the pressures on the University, the tendency to ask "What have you done lately?" instead of "What are you building?" is something we should perhaps resist more ardently.
Second, it is great to work with the team of folks here at Minnesota, who are constructive and hard-working - and smart as hell. We raise each other's games, and that's priceless, and the most satisfying thing about making the move here way back in '02.
And finally, it is incredibly gratifying to mentor and work with such genuinely gifted graduate students (Jacqui Frost and Evan Stewart, and also Jack Delehanty and Alex Manning and Ryan Steel, and the other terrific students involved in the project). You should keep an eye out for their work, some of which draws on project data and much of which is entirely their own. A new "Minnesota School" is not entirely out of the question, I think, anchored in a critical approach to the symbolic and moral dimensions of solidarity that also engages seriously with questions of power, politics, and material inequality.
Exciting stuff going on here. Stay tuned.