Research Projects

Here at the Center we have a wide variety of current research investigating the sociology of religion. Below, we discuss our current projects. There is also an archive of past projects.

The Chicago Congregations Project

How do neighborhoods where religious congregations are located influence them and how do congregations change their communities? The Chicago Congregations Project (CCP) uses innovative data collection methods so that researchers can address these questions and better understand the role of congregations in urban life.

Using Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies, the CCP is virtually and physically canvassing Chicago’s 77 Community Areas (CCAs) to generate the universe of religious congregations within the city. Based on information from Google Street View, walking and driving streets, and other methods, researchers are also verifying the active status of congregations. When the first phase is completed, the CCP will constitute an unprecedented list of congregations in communities across Chicago.

The Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI)

The initiative, directed by Christian Smith, aims to advance the empirical study of global religion in mainstream academia by granting funds to promising researchers in the social sciences. The initiative offers six distinct research and writing grants and fellowship programs: (1) Book-Writing Leave Fellowships, (2) Project Launch Grants, (3) Dissertation Fellowships, (4) International Collaboration Grants, (5) Curriculum Development Grants, and (6) Postdoctoral Research Fellowships. The second round of proposal submission was held in fall 2017, and the GRRI received over 150 research proposals from scholars at 100 colleges and universities around the world. The submissions were reviewed by leading social science scholars and 48 of the proposals were awarded funding in the 2017 round. Nathanel Sumaktoyo, who recently earned his PhD from the ND Political Science Department, and Shanna Corner, who recently earned her PhD from the ND Sociology Department, were awarded Postdoctoral Research Fellowships. Several current GRRI award recipients have presented results from the research projects supported by GRRI funds at both US and international research conferences during the spring 2018 semester, and other conference presentations are planned for summer and fall 2018.

National Survey of Women’s March Solidarity Events

Kraig Beyerlein along with graduate students Aliyah Abu-Hazeem, Amity Pauley, and Peter Ryan, collected a nationally representative sample of U.S. Women’s March Solidarity Events (“Sister Marches”). In addition to the presence of religion at these events (religious-leader speakers and faith-based organizational sponsorships), information from organizers was collected about composition of organizing teams and volunteers, when the mobilizing started, collaboration with other organizers, duration of the event, and presence of counterdemonstrators. Currently, a paper from this project has a “revise and resubmit” at Mobilization.

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 complete and Christian Smith is partnering with Amy Adamczyk, of John Jay College in New York, to write a book about the trends among parents in their transmission of faith and a co-authored book with two graduate students. Christian is also partnering with Donna Freitas to write a popular press book.

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.

Religion and Women's March on Chicago

Kraig Beyerlein is collaborating with current graduate student, Peter Ryan on this project. To date, they have interviewed nearly 150 people from faith communities in Chicago connected to the first Women’s March on Chicago (January 21, 2017). This project is supported by a Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Jack Shand Research Award and an Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts Small Research and Creative Work Grant. An article on it is forthcoming in Sociology of Religion. This summer, they plan to conduct follow-up interviews with a subset of participants from the original sample as well as some new interviews with faith communities that were not part of this sample but were involved in the second Women’s March on Chicago (January 20, 2018).

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.

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 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 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.



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Last updated on August 1, 2018