Here at the Center we have a wide variety of current research investigating the sociology of religion. Below, we discuss our projects on the Science of Generosity, Christian education in the US and Canada, American youth and religion, congregations and immigration, marriage and divorce, critical realism and human personhood, Air Force chapels, protest events, and multiple modenities. There is also an archive of past projects.
Science of Generosity (SciGen)
Christian Smith led a research team in analyzing data from a nationally-representative Internet-based survey on generosity and related topics, and from in-depth, household interviews and family ethnographies with 40 of the survey respondents in 12 U.S. cities. The analysis is almost complete and will result in conference presentations, 1+ books, 7+ papers, and 1 and possibly more dissertation(s). The data will also be released to the public later this year. This project is funded by the Science of Generosity grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
Kraig Beyerlein is working on a number of projects using these data. His manuscript on the effect of religion on blood donation is forthcoming in the Sociology of Religion. Another paper (with Jeff Sallaz –University of Arizona faculty) focuses on the relationship between religion and gambling. This paper currently has a Revise and Resubmit from Social Science Research. A paper with Kelly Bergstrand (University of Texas-Arlington faculty) that analyzes dyads to understand why certain people but not others are recruited to donate blood, volunteer time, and engage in political activism is under review. Kraig is also investigating (with John R. Hipp of UC-Irvine) how the larger religious context affects people’s generosity. Kraig and John will present a paper on their findings at the upcoming American Sociological Association annual meetings. He has worked with 2 graduate students on this project this year.
National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR)
Analysis of the fourth and final wave of data for this 12-year study of adolescent and young adult religious behavior and belief is underway. Work on this project currently involves researchers from University of Texas San Antonio, University of Southern California, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt, Purdue, University of Toronto, Baylor, BYU, Stanford, Furman, University of Cologne (Germany), University of Oklahoma, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Wheaton College, Calvin College, and Notre Dame, among others.
Parental Cultures and Practices of Intergenerational Transmission of Religious Faith to Children
A research team led by Christian Smith conducted over 200 interviews in 2014 and 2015 with parents from across the United States to examine intergenerational transmission of religious and moral beliefs. Analyses of these data are underway now with the goal of being able to discuss such topics as what approaches parents take to pass on religious and moral beliefs, and how these are related or unrelated to their own moral and religious socialization, and the influences and motivations that parents experience to pass on their faith in the ways that they do.
Cardus Education Survey
The Cardus Education Study, funded by Cardus, is designed to investigate students’ experiences in and outcomes as a result of attending religious schools, both in terms of differences within the religious school sector, and between religious and secular schools. Results from four waves of a national survey (fielded twice in the U.S. and twice in Canada) asking adults about their experiences in and after high school graduation are currently being presented and published.
Independent School Research Initiative at Notre Dame
The Independent School Research Initiative at Notre Dame is supported by Cardus, a North American think tank based in Canada interested in learning more about the functioning of religious schools. It is a project of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, within the Sociology Department at the University of Notre Dame. Founded in 2010, and directed by David Sikkink, ISRI is a non-partisan research organization. Its mission is to generate new theoretical and empirical tools for understanding religious schools and provide information to leaders and educators across school sectors providing models for successful education.
Congregation-School Partnership Study
CRSI has partnered with the Expectations Group to investigate the ways in which religious congregations and parachurch organizations in the United States are partnering with public schools to support their work, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.
Religious School Assessment Study
CRSI is working with several religious schools in Canada to assist with assessment of such topics as educational initiatives, parent satisfaction, and teacher engagement to assist schools in assessing their own practices and success in achieving their organizational goals.
U.S. Borderland Project
Kraig Beyerlein is near completion of this book manuscript (“Flooding the Desert: Faith-Based Mobilizing to Save Lives Along the Sonora-Arizona Border”) on the causes and consequences of congregations’ involvement in the humanitarian aid movement in Southern Arizona. Two Notre Dame graduate students have provided crucial support for this research. Finally, Kraig again collaborated with the Center for Social Concerns to teach their Border Issues Seminar, which included a week-long immersion trip to the México-United States Border in which 15 undergraduate students participated.
Institute for Church Life
John Cavadini with the partnership of Christian Smith and CSRS continued the Catholic Social and Pastoral Research Initiative in the Institute for Church Life here at UND. One major report on Catholic voluntary financial giving was published this year.
National Study of Protest Events (NSPE)
Kraig Beyerlein collected the first-ever, nationally-representative sample of protest events in the United States using the hypernetwork sampling method. The overview paper (co-authored with three Notre Dame graduate students) has been revised and resubmitted for a second time at Sociological Methods and Research. Two (2) graduate students and four (4) undergraduates helped with data cleaning and coding. Kraig and Peter Ryan also presented a paper on the role of religion in explaining variation among protesters at this year’s annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in Atlanta. The NSPE is funded by the Science of Generosity grant from the John Templeton Foundation as well as an internal grant from the Kroc Institute.
Air Force Academy Chapel Study
Mary Ellen Konieczny and Megan Roger’s paper on the USAFA Freethinkers Group was accepted for publication by JSSR in November 2015. Mary Ellen submitted a book proposal and chapter to Oxford University Press in June 2015, and received an advance contract from Oxford in fall 2015. With funding from Jack Shand and the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, Mary Ellen will conduct a research trip to USAFA in June 2016, to wrap up interviews and archival data collection; up until now she has collected a total of 57 interviews and over 9000 pages of archival and other documentary data. The project has also been funded by the Louisville Institute and by grants from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and the Office of Research, University of Notre Dame. In October 2015, she also applied and received a fellowship from the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study Fall Semester 2016, where she will work on the book’s introduction and first chapter.
Civic and Moral Formation in 10 School Sectors
The 10 Case Studies project, based at the University of Virginia, now has a quantitative dimension based at Notre Dame. With a $211,000 grant, David Sikkink and Sara Skiles are designing and conducting surveys with students, teachers, and parents in 54 selected schools for the 10CS project. The goal of the project is to better understand moral and civic formation processes in a diverse set of schools, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, and various types of nonreligious schools.
Marriage and Divorce, Conflict and Faith Study
Data collection for this project is now complete. A sole authored paper by Mary Ellen Konieczny, “Individualized Marriage and Family Disruption Ministries: How Culture Matters” has just been published in the journal Sociology of Religion. The paper Mary Ellen coauthored with grad students Karen Hooge and Elexis Ellis (Yale) is being revised and resubmitted to Qualitative Sociology at this present time. Mary Ellen and Karen Hooge have submitted a third paper to Journal of Contemporary Religion and are awaiting a decision on that paper.
Polarization in the Catholic Church Edited Volume
Mary Ellen Konieczny, Charles C. Camosy and Tricia Bruce have co-edited a book originating in the conference on the topic of polarization in the US Catholic Church, which Mary Ellen conducted with Charles Camosy at Notre Dame in April 2015. The book, “Polarization in the US Catholic Church: Naming the Wounds, Beginning to Heal,” includes contributions from sociologists, theologians, and church leaders, and is being published by Liturgical Press with a release date of August-September 2016. The volume also includes an introductory article written by Mary Ellen.
Nonprofits and Poverty: Diverse Approaches and Controversial Issues
Ines Jindra and Michael Jindra continue work on this project which was funded by the Center for Social Concerns, University of Notre Dame.
Our Lady of Kibeho
Mary Ellen Konieczny conducted exploratory research for her third book project during a faculty development trip to East Africa in summer 2014, and a second, three week research visit to Rwanda in summer 2015. She has received internal funding from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and the Center for the Study of Religion and Society to conduct a research visit this July and August. The topic surrounds Marian apparitions in East Africa and their cultural and political significance. The focal case is Our Lady of Kibeho, an apparition that took place in Rwanda in 1981, and the only Church approved apparition in Africa. Mary Ellen has applied for small external grants to fund future visits beginning in spring 2017, and eventually intends (when the book manuscript for the USAFA project has been competed) to apply for larger grants and fellowships for the project.
From Zion to New York City: Refiguring Jewish-American Ethics and Identity through Solidarity with Palestinians
Atalia Omer is working on a book project that examines the phenomenon of Jewish Americans who are critics of Israel and Palestine solidarity activists. It argues that they constitute not only a social movement but also a refashioned Jewish-American community. The research examines this movement's participation in both inter-traditional work that seeks to provincialize Zion from Jewish identity, and inter-traditional and intersectional work that seeks to fight Islamophobia, racisms, and other social justice concerns. Omer studies specifically a new Chicago-based non-Zionist Jewish congregation that embodies a Jewish transformative agenda.
Project for the Study of Latino Religion
The Project seeks to advance the social scientific study of Latino religion. It specifically seeks to understand the role of religion in civic and political life, its impact on educational aspirations and achievement among youth, the training of religious leaders, and the social service role of Latino congregations.Directed by Dr. Edwin I. Hernandez, the Project was previously known as the Center for the Study of Latino Religion, which over the last decade conducted research on Latino religious leadership, theological training, education, congregations, and political engagement (see http://latinostudies.nd.edu/research-publications/publications/#religion for a list of publications). This work has been supported by generous grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Louisville Institute, Annie E. Casey, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.One of the major research efforts under way is dissemination of the findings from the Chicago Latino Congregations Study (CLCS), a multi-level comprehensive study of Latino congregations, clergy, lay leadership, and parishioners (adults and youth) (see http://latinostudies.nd.edu/assets/95266/original/clcsmethodology_paper_final1.pdf for a description of the methodology).The researchers initially compiled a comprehensive population list of the religious universe of metropolitan Chicago Latino congregations defined as having 50 percent Latino participants for Protestant churches and 30 percent or more for Catholic parishes. The study is based on a stratified sample of 84 congregations representing Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and Pentecostal traditions. In all, the CLCS includes congregational level and Latino religious leader data for 84 congregation as well as 2,368 adults from 74 of the congregations and 607 youth from 63 of the congregations.
Critical Realism and Human Personhood in Social Sciences Project
This collaborative project, led by Dr. Christian Smith, is exploring non-reductionistic accounts of the nature of the human person as they relate to the work of the social sciences. The project is gathering together interdisciplinary groups of scholars in sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy, theology, and law to discuss key questions toward developing new theoretical models of the nature of human personhood in ways that might improve theoretical and empirical work in the social sciences.
The “Multiple Modernities” Project
This collaborative project, led by Dr. Christian Smith, is exploring and developing through working groups, seminars, and focused research projects the theoretical idea of multiple modernities—particularly, though not exclusively, as it relates to religious and moral life—around the world. Multiple modernities provides a theoretical and analytical framework for understanding cultural and institutional social change at the global, national, and sub-cultural levels that represents an alternative to both traditional modernization and secularization theories as well as to the theory of post-modernism.
LGBTQ Christian College Students Study
Christy Gardner completed her Louisville Institute-funded research at nine evangelical Christian colleges. This past year she presented a paper at the National Communication Association conference and has a paper under second review at Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. She has been invited by the M. J. Murdock Trust to submit a grant proposal for a devised performance (in collaboration with Sojourn Theatre) based on her interview transcripts to tour to Christian colleges in the Pacific Northwest.
Jessica Collett is exploring how men’s relationships with their parents, partners, and others shape and refine not only the content but also the specificity of fatherhood identity meanings. Using data from in-depth qualitative interviews with low-income fathers, she demonstrates that fathers with significant others who offer positive examples of parenting, articulate concrete expectations, or provide explicit evaluations of men’s performances hold more specific expectations for themselves than those who lacked such alters. Jessica and her students are also exploring the different effects of focusing on another to infer the kind of father one wants to be (positive role models) versus the father one hopes not to be (negative role models).
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Last updated on May 18, 2016
Sociology of Religion Dissertation Topics
Sociology of religion encompasses a vast range of issues related to the impact that different elements create on religion and the impact that religion creates on various social issues. For instance, it includes the study of various beliefs, values and structures of religions in society, along with the impact that social elements, such as, social interaction, media and politics impose on religion. Similarly, this field of sociology covers contemporary issues, such as, the impact of social issues like gender, inequality and stereotyping on religion. If the area of sociology of religion interests you and you decide to write about it in your sociology dissertation, the following topics may prove useful to you:
• Comparison of cross-religious beliefs and values in the UK.
• How have print and electronic media in the UK created perceptions about different religions?
• Analysing the common religious grounds for developing inter-faith harmony in the UK.
• How has social interaction between people from different religious backgrounds led to religious diffusion?
• Analysing the link between gender and sexual issues with relevance to different religions.
• Is there any link between religion and social change?
• A critical analysis of religious organisations in the UK and their impact on social structure.
• Identifying the link between religion and political behaviour in the UK.
• Identifying the impact of religion on marriages in the UK.
• Exploring the relationship between religion and education as a social institution.
• Can Goffman’s ‘ritualised interactions’ and his interaction of everyday life be used for the analysis of contemporary religious life?
• How, and in what ways are religious values and religious norms binding for members of UK society today?
• Should the public sphere be separate from the private sphere, when the private sphere for some is religious?