Paul Roger Lichterman

Professor of Sociology and Religion, University of Southern California

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
May–July 2019

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»Repositioned religion and transformations of political belonging in the U.S.«

Project outline:
I am beginning a project on changing forms of political community, and how religious identities and practices animate them. One form of political community in the U.S., an instance of the populism surging worldwide, is highly insular and relies on sharp, rigid boundaries. It focuses on a »team-like« identity and loyalty more than any explicit ideology. It makes loyalty rather than deliberation or instrumental interest the basis for judging policies or leaders. My research starts with one, overriding gambit: This particular form of national, political belonging, one among several in the U.S., has its own cultural and institutional sources, its own history. It may well be associated with populist-sounding ideologies or global economic dislocations but is not simply a logical or natural reflection of them; it is a phenomenon in itself. My ultimate goals are to identify this form of political community carefully, chart its cultural, institutional and media dimensions, and trace its roots in U.S. public and religious life. I suspect that it builds partly on forms of group belonging that have developed in some religious congregational settings, religious fellowships, and social movement organizations in the U.S. since the 1970s, even as it is further cultivated and channeled by political operatives, media entrepreneurs and social media practices too. (Paul Roger Lichterman)

Research partner:
Paul Lichterman follows an invitation of Ferdinand Sutterlüty (Professor of Sociology at Goethe University) and the University's research center »Religiöse Positionierung. Modalitäten und Konstellationen in jüdischen, christlichen und islamischen Kontexten« (»Religious Positioning: Modalities and Constellations in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Contexts«).

Scholarly profile of Paul Roger Lichterman

Paul Lichterman is Professor of Sociology and Religion at the University of Southern California. His research focusses on the question of how people practice active citizenship and define public issues in a socially unequal, culturally diverse society. From the Cultural Sociology Section of the ASA he received awards for his articles in the and in Theory and Society. His book Elusive Togetherness won the Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the Pacific Sociological Association.

More information about Paul Lichterman can be found here.

Main areas of research:
Culture, religion, civil society organisations and social movements, political sociology, qualitative methodology and theory.

Selected publications:
  1. (with Kushan Dasgupta): »How a Housing Advocacy Coalition Adds Health: A Culture of Claimsmaking«, in: Social Science and Medicine 165 (2016), p. 255-262.
  2. (with Isaac Reed): »Theory and Contrastive Explanation in Ethnography«, in: Sociological Methods and Research 44/4 (2015), p. 585-635.
  3. (with N. Eliasoph): »Civic Action«, in: American Journal of Sociology 120/3 (2015), p. 798-863.
  4. »Religion in Public Action: From Actors to Settings«, in: Sociological Theory 30/1 (2012), p. 15-36.
  5. (ed. with C. Brady Potts): The Civic Life of American Religion, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2008.
  6. »Religion and the Construction of Civic Identity«, in: American Sociological Review 73 (2008), p. 83-104.
  7. Elusive Togetherness: Church Groups Trying to Bridge America’s Divisions, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2005.
  8. The Search for Political Community: American Activists Reinventing Commitment, New York: Cambridge University Press 1996.