I am Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Monmouth University.
I work in religion, philosophy, social science and culture with a focus on the ways in which critical theory and ethnographic approaches can provide new orientations for social analysis, ethics and interdisciplinary conversation. I was trained in ethnographic method by the philosophical anthropologist, Michael Jackson. I have an abiding interest in the critical work ethnography can do at the intersections of religion, science and global capitalism.
My ethnographic methodology blends participant-observation, formal interviews, discourse analysis and critical self-reflection. In my work, I draw from phenomenology, existential philosophy, critical theory, pragmatism, post-structualism, history, sociology and anthropology, testing and evaluating the practical usefulness and inadequacies of conceptual tools in light of the changing demands which lived contexts necessarily place on all theory. A primary interest in intersubjectivity and the relationship of academic work to other forms of labor informs this approach
My published research has focused on the recent ‘spiritual turn’ taken by organizational management and what this turn of events can tell us about the shape-shifting qualities of a contemporary global and cybernetic capitalism that seems to unsettle the modernist binaries (secular/religious; economic/affective; instrumental/aesthetic) that characterized Max Weber’s descriptions of modernity. Having conducted ethnographic research with a group of ‘spiritual reformers’ of capitalism who blend theology and management theory in their work, I looked specifically at the ways in which the metaphors of a networked capitalism are reiterated in practice, reproducing and personalizing the global imaginary of contemporary capitalism.
Under Jackson’s supervision, I began to work on and continue to work on an interdisciplinary methodology for the study of religion and society that shares Michel Foucault’s “archaeological” appreciation for the patterns of thought that cut across institutions and disciplines within discrete and specific epistemic contexts, focusing on the reproduction in practice of patterns of socially available metaphor. However, as a way of mitigating against the structuralist excesses that underwrite Foucault’s archaeological work, my ethnographic approach borrows heavily from phenomenology, pragmatism and existentialism and maintains an abiding and central interest in issues of agency, biography and intentionality. I look to explore and better comprehend the ways in which social rules are lived out, inhabited, challenged and altered in practice. New research on religion, spirituality and contemporary society will explore the ways in which “religion” and “spirituality” are understood, produced and practiced in diverse institutional and social contexts: social work, health care, military chaplaincies, theoretical science, corporate finance, and grass roots activism. In this research, I have a particular interest in exploring the ways in which “spirituality”, ritual practice and theology can serve the interests of the status quo, on the one hand, and help persons identify and challenge relationships of social inequality, on the other hand.
An article entitled “The Ritualization of Consumer Capitalism: Catherine Bell’s Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice in the Age of Starbucks” has been accepted for publication and is forthcoming in Implicit Religion. I am in the project design stages for a multi-site ethnography and book length treatment of the topic.
I am also currently beginning a new ethnographic study of the ‘spiritual’ lives of Latina immigrants in the Boston area who turn to perennial philosophy in an effort to make sense of their personal histories and struggles. Finally, I am currently completing an article length treatment of the work of the late anthropologist of capitalist magic in contemporary Russia, Galina Lindquist.
Other general areas of interest are theories and methods in the study of religion, religious ethics, philosophy of religion, social and civil religion, secular and economic rituals, ritual theory, contemporary New Thought literature, social inequality, Latino/a religions, the religious experiences and lives of migrants and marginalized workers in the U.S., the religious experiences and lives of institutional elites in the U.S., religion and gender, religion and race, the Frankfurt School of critical theory and religion, sociology of religion; anthropology of religion and new religious movements.