My current research and writing focuses on the ways that personal spiritual practices develop during times of social transformation. I am collaborating with colleagues at other universities to consider how the traditional separation of religion and magic may mask the spiritual vitality in contemporary societies.
In 2018, Bloomsbury Academic published my co-authored book: The Spiritual Virtuoso: Personal Faith and Social Transformation.
A spiritual virtuoso is someone who seeks personal salvation through intense practices like study or meditation and occasionally joins with others to work toward religious innovation and social change. The section about the role of religion in the American anti-slavery movement relates to the ways that moral and ethical priorities are shaping Black Lives Matter and other movements for social equality. Here is a brief article about the book : https://theconversation.com/martin-luthers-spiritual-practice-was-key-to-the-success-of-the-reformation-83340.
Although it’s on the back burner, I am also doing more research about the complicated dynamics of food and faith as part of my interest in lived religion. My first publication on that subject is a chapter, “ Food, Faith and Fraud in two New Religious Movements” in Amanda Van Eck’s Minority Religions and Fraud.
I explore sociological questions about religion, gender, and social change through documentary and historical research, field methods, and in-depth interviewing. Right now, I am participating in London-based Zoom classes about chaos magic and paganism and working with colleagues on projects about contemporary spirituality in Western Europe and North America. In previous research, I have (very briefly) tended bar at a Nevada brothel, participated in California psychodrama workshops, and fallen into a secret room where poisons were brewed in the communal city of Rajneeshpuram.
In Gold Diggers and Silber Miners, a Hamilton Prize winner, I explored the relationships between frontier prostitution and community life. Passionate Journeys described the successful American women who left the mainstream to follow their guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to central Oregon. You can find out more in this brief article in The Conversation.
My book, The American Soul Rush, looks at Esalen, an influential spiritual retreat on the California coast, and the ways that it reshaped contemporary spirituality. It has appealed to wider audiences and here is the review in the San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/01/RVNB1MH4GN.DTL
Last fall I was a Fulbright Specialist in the United Kingdom. I worked with the Institute for Social Futures at Lancaster University and the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Kings College, London.
- Religious Violence
- Qualitative Methods
- Sociology of Religion
- Cults and Social Movements
- Qualitative Methods
The American Soul Rush (2012) https://nyupress.org/books/9780814732878/
The Spiritual Virtuoso: Personal Faith and Social Transformation (2017) https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Virtuoso-Personal-Social-Transformation/dp/1474292399