The Top 11 from ’13: Academic Journals of Sociological Research on Religion


It’s 2014 and time for an annual review of the religion-related articles in the top journals in sociology. As I have done in the past, I use the ISI Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports to create the ranking of all sociology journals ranked by last year’s Impact Factor. In this review I noticed that 2012 was an anomalous year; last year I only needed to review the first 10 journals to get my top 11; this year I had to search down to the first 19. Even the newly discovered European Sociological Review had only 2 articles on religion compared to 5 in the previous year. I skipped two journals (noted below) that I had not heard of in any paper or book I have read in the past year in mainstream sociology. Interestingly some journals have gotten a much lower impact factor rating while others that were low last year have gotten a boost. A few remain constant and it’s those that many scholars view as consistently prestigious. Below I include a marker “tie” for those that appear in the same journal in the same year. It’s the journal rank that counts so those articles should be more or less ranked about the same. That said, 7 of the first 19 journals with the highest impact factor contained 11 articles related to religion. As of this writing the December issues of the American Journal of Sociology and Sociological Theory were not available so it’s possible that these rankings will miss important articles here. Hat tip to all those listed for their contributions!


Tie (1) Edwards, Korie L., Brad Christerson, and Michael O. Emerson. 2013. “Race, Religious Organizations, and Integration.” Annual Review of Sociology 39:211-228.

Tie (1) Gorski, Philip S. and Gulay Turkmen-Dervisoglu. 2013. “Religion, Nationalism, and Violence: An Integrated Approach.” Annual Review of Sociology 39: 193-210.

[apologies to the second author, I don’t know where the umlaut symbol is and how to work it.]

(3) Goldstein, Adam and Heather A. Haveman. 2013. “Pulpit and Press: Denominational Dynamics and the Growth of Religious Magazines in Antebellum America.” American Sociological Review 78:797-827.

Annals of Tourism Research: skipped

(4) Mathias, Matthew D. 2013. “The Sacralization of the Individual: Human Rights and the Abolition of the Death Penalty.” American Journal of Sociology 118:1246-1283.

Social Networks: 0

Sociological Methodology: 0

Journal of Marriage and Family: 0

Journal of Consumer Culture: 0

Sociological Theory: 0

Population and Development Review: 0

Socio-Economic Review: 0

(5) Scheible, Jana A. and Fenella Fleischmann. 2013. “Gendering Islamic Religiosity in the Second Generation: Gender Differences in Religious Practices and the Association with Gender Ideology Among Moroccan- and Turkish-Belgian Muslims.” Gender and Society 27: 372-395.

[this article might also be awarded the “longest title of the year”]

Cornell Hospitality Quarterly: skipped

Tie (6) Charsley, Katharine and Anika Liversage. 2013. “Transforming Polygamy: Migration, Transnationalism and Multiple Marriages Among Muslim Minorities.” Global Networks 13: 60-78.

Tie (6) Singh, Gurharpal. 2013. “Religious Transnationalism, Development and the Construction of Religious Boundaries: the Case of the Derra Sachkhand Ballan and the Ravidass Dharm.” Global Networks 13: 183-199.

Tie (8) Immerzeel, Tim and Frank van Tubergen 2013. “Religion as Reassurance? Testing the Insecurity Theory in 26 European Countries.” European Sociological Review 29:359-372.

Tie (8) Davies, Scott. 2013. “Are There Catholic School Effects in Ontario, Canada?” European Sociological Review 29:871-883.

Sociological Methods and Research: 0

Politics and Society: 0

Law and Society Review: 0

Tie (10) Cao, Liqun and Edward R. Maguire. 2013. “Class, Religiosity, and Tolerance of Prostitution.” Social Problems 60: 188-205.

Tie (10) Guenther, Katja M. and Kerry Mulligan. 2013. “From the Outside In: Crossing Boundaries to Build Collective Identity in the New Atheist Movement.” Social Problems 60: 457-475.


Interdisciplinary Science Research – the Japanese Way

While attending the American Sociological Association annual meetings are a humbling experience when you hear and see scholars asking super-big questions, there’s something perhaps even more humbling when attending an interdisciplinary science mini-conference like the one I attended last week. Up until the invitation to present I had never heard of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). This organization has been around since 1932 according to their website. It was initiated by the Japanese emperor Showa to support scientific research, and from what I witnessed, it looks like the research is not exclusively practical or theoretical. From my American perspective, this sounded like great science! The JSPS has a long line of funded graduate, post-doctoral and I think some early professor awards and grants over the decades. As such the JSPS has a rich collection of alumni in universities all over the world, a few of whom are positioned at Chapman University. The aims of the JSPS are not only national interest, but also global cooperation. This seems “natural” in the sense that Japanese culture is collective and while Japanese scientists may prioritize helping their own people, they are well aware that many of today’s problems in Japan extend to other countries and the problems of other countries reach back to Japan. Hopefully more American leaders are thinking the same way.

The conference was a blitz from 8:30pm on Thursday night through 8:30pm the following night. I am not exaggerating; the full day of the conference went from 8:30am to 8:30pm and talks proceeded throughout the entire period, including lunch. Hosted by alumni Dr. Andrea Molle (an Italian sociologist of religion), and his current institution Chapman University, the arrangements were fairly typical of a conference. Some of the professors spoke in Japanese (at least 4 flew directly to the US just for this conference), and I had my first opportunity to participate in meishi, a Japanese business practice of trading business cards. It’s apparently less formal among academics compared to the “real deal” of big business exchanges.

Rather than use my sociological lens to interpret the relations of scholars around me, my post will focus more on the content of the talks, which as I mentioned earlier were phenomenal and humbling.

The presentations were led by Dr. Menas Kafatos (Chapman University), a professor of physics, and if his specialization area was not enough to make one’s research interests seem insignificant, his talk was about how the scientific community has come to accept the real possibility of multiple universes, and its implications for scientific knowledge and what spirituality and consciousness might mean. I thought I had stepped into an episode of Fringe. Here are some brief reflections and questions of the other presentations as I listened in:

Dr. Stephanie Ohshita (Univ. San Francisco), presented on her work with the Chinese government on creating low-carbon cities – how will America adapt to keep pace with the footprint that China wants to shrink?

Dr. Yoshihiko Kadoya (Osaka U.) compared the long-term care of the elderly in Japan compared to other countries – did you know that Japanese elder care workers are required to work 1000 hours before being licensed. Expectations vary within the US but the nearest number of hours was not even half that of the Japanese. Apparently Japan is quite unique even compared to other nations that adhere to a stronger link across generations.

Dr. Andrea DeAntoni (Ritsumeikan U.) briefly shared his explorations into haunted houses in Kyoto and the tourism that is built on this phenomenon. It reminded me of work on the American front by Drs. Christopher Bader, Carson Mencken and Joseph Baker. Even in nations where the majority profess no religious adherence, belief in the paranormal can be quite evident.

Dr. Rosalee Hellberg (Chapman U.) explained the pervasiveness of mislabeling fish in US food production and the societal consequences. I wondered whether sociologists can somehow incorporate this sort of research and perhaps identify the unequal distribution of mislabeled food product and the health consequences.

Dr. Longjian Liu (Drexel U.) presented his recent work on the prevalence of hypertension. This immediately had me thinking about racial and economic group disparities in identifying and addressing this condition and its implications for healthcare across the US.

Dr. Jingbo Louise Liu (Texas A & M Kingsville) talked about fuel cell efficiency; I was reminded of Ohshita’s talk about the need for reducing our energy usage and our carbon footprint. New technologies and the science behind them will hopefully solve some of these pressing problems.

Dr. Kenji Kajiwara (Kyushu U.) gave a spirited talk about the ever-persisting problems left unsolved in mathematics, despite what students flippantly think. I had few notes on this as I had to focus intently on his visual demonstrations. I think I understand basic trigonometry better now.

Dr. Minoru Yoneda (Kyoto U.) updated us on the radioactivity of the soil around the Fukushima nuclear plant and the plans underway on how to contain it. We’ve come a long way from Chernobyl but when these problems arise, the consequences run deep. Contaminated soil could result in contaminated vegetables and animals that consume those vegetables.

Dr. Yoshihiro Kawahara (U. of Tokyo) presented his latest work on using inkjet (yes inkjet) to create sensors that can work on detecting water in soil as well as (I would think) make even smaller chips for microprocessors that run the next generation of computers. His business card exemplified this new tech. How will our computing look like in the next decade?

Dr. Rebeka Sultana (Cal State U.) illustrated the difficulties in identifying snow water levels in the western part of the US. This joins Ohshita, Liu and Yoneda’s work on environmental changes and our response to it. Given the notable climate changes, snow water estimates are important in planning for a state like California where populated area might require irrigation or transportation of water to the city.

Dr. Ramesh Singh (Chapman U.) gave us startling images of the highly unusual dust waves that blanket the northern part of India affecting hundreds of millions of people. As with the other environment-focused topics, science has been employed to identify massive changes in the environment and the need for governments to take action. It’s hard to imagine the toxicity with which millions are living in given these conditions.

Dr. Greg Durgin (Georgia Tech) shared his teaching experiments in science courses on solar power harvesting tools. I told myself that I need to work on engaging my students like this; on the other hand solar power experiments are probably a fast IRB compared to many social science student-led projects.

Dr. Shamim Mirza (PK Corporation) presented an engineering feat that even he was unsure was possible: nanoimprinting. Using the “moth-eye” science used in some of today’s televisions, he has developed similar, and even smaller renderings of this technology that can be applied not only to popular consumer electronics but also medical and biological instruments.

I had wanted to take pictures of all of these but given the possible patent and copyrights involved, I opted to just watch and listen. This post would have been more visually appealing had you seen some of the slides of thousand-mile dust clouds, and micro-technology that makes the science geek buzz.

All told, these presentations drew me out of the world of surveys and interviews and into the fields that use delicate (and expensive) instruments to investigate issues that can possibly affect public policy all around the world. The scholars and their diverse backgrounds reminded me that while America is still the land of immigrants, we’re not the only nation capable of bringing scholars from around the world into the same organization. Some American sociologists are doing more transnational research (our own Margarita Mooney is one), and perhaps those like myself who seem content with the American scene can benefit from an occasional attendance at a conference like this. It helps us better understand the importance of context (understood as environmental and technological terms), and raises questions about how to integrate environmental and technological change with our studies of cognition/ attitudes, groups, social structures, politics, and culture.

MLK and Creative Maladjustment

 While still recovering from the flu (yes I still got it despite getting a shot last  November) I have tried to keep my intellectual capacities running if only through reading and not much writing. In a few days we as a nation will remember the Reverend Martin Luther King and his major contributions to American society. I confess that my awareness of King is not very systematic, and I am reminded every semester how much less each generation seems to know of him and his legacy. Dr. King gave many speeches over his brief public career, and recently the American Psychological Association posted his address to this organization and to all American social scientists. As the webpage summary puts into context, this speech was delivered on September 1, 1967. Seven months later, his talk was about to be published in the Journal of Social Issues (Vol. 24- still running today) when the news rang out of his assassination in Memphis, TN.

It’s worth a read for those interested in the way one of the great leaders of the 20th century brought together global conflict, social scientific research, and contemporary national issues together for an audience of social scientists. The Rev. Dr. King did not hold back his criticism of the efforts of social scientists, particularly sociologists, who likely supported the cause but had radically different solutions. I mention both of titles of “Rev.” and “Dr.” because as you will see these credentials were not without warrant. He is one of the few I have seen to deftly combine theological concepts with social science and politics. In the following I share some of the quotes from his speech. King first opens up with the importance of social science research for the African American and white communities:

If the Negro needs social sciences for direction and for self-understanding, the white society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject. The present crisis arises because although it is historically imperative that our society take the next step to equality, we find ourselves psychologically and socially imprisoned. All too many white Americans are horrified not with conditions of Negro life but with the product of these conditions-the Negro himself.

He then retells the events of the past 15 years (1950s-1967) and one of the major consequences of addressing racism head on:

The decade of 1955 to 1965, with its constructive elements, misled us. Everyone, activists and social scientists, underestimated the amount of violence and rage Negroes were suppressing and the amount of bigotry the white majority was disguising.

Science should have been employed more fully to warn us that the Negro, after 350 years of handicaps, mired in an intricate network of contemporary barriers, could not be ushered into equality by tentative and superficial changes.

King was keenly aware of the way social scientists think and introduced institutional racism into the conversation. While many social scientists advocated change, few of the applications of that advocacy anticipated what would happen next. Urban riots were rampant especially in northern cities and King notes that systemic racism as the cultural context in which these events occur. Quoting from Victor Hugo (yes the one who wrote Les Miserables)

A profound judgment of today’s riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, ‘If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.’

In an unexpected (to me) turn, he then addresses the problematic American presence in Vietnam. It is at this point that he utters the phrase seen on many bumper stickers and Facebook memes:

It is my deep conviction that justice is indivisible, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

King mentions Vietnam through a play on the word segregation. As he states:  “I can only respond that I have fought too hard and long to end segregated public accommodations to segregate my own moral concerns.” King was clearly seeing a much bigger picture in his last years connecting the struggle for equality in America with the struggles for equality throughout the world, and perhaps more specifically for a more just world when the powerful manipulate, exploit and kill the less powerful. Several paragraphs later, King turns his attention to the social scientific community:

Now there are many roles for social scientists in meeting these problems. Kenneth Clark has said that Negroes are moved by a suicide instinct in riots and Negroes know there is a tragic truth in this observation. Social scientists should also disclose the suicide instinct that governs the administration and Congress in their total failure to respond constructively.

Social science may be able to search out some answers to the problem of Negro leadership. E. Franklin Frazier, in his profound work, Black Bourgeoisie, laid painfully bare the tendency of the upwardly mobile Negro to separate from his community, divorce himself from responsibility to it, while failing to gain acceptance in the white community. There has been significant improvements from the days Frazier researched, but anyone knowledgeable about Negro life knows its middle class is not yet bearing its weight. Every riot has carried strong overtone of hostility of lower class Negroes toward the affluent Negro and vice versa. No contemporary study of scientific depth has totally studied this problem. Social science should be able to suggest mechanisms to create a wholesome black unity and a sense of peoplehood while the process of integration proceeds.

As one example of this gap in research, there are no studies, to my knowledge, to explain adequately the absence of Negro trade union leadership. Eight-five percent of Negroes are working people. Some two million are in trade unions but in 50 years we have produced only one national leader-A. Philip Randolph.

Discrimination explains a great deal, but not everything. The picture is so dark even a few rays of light may signal a useful direction.

I wonder if King would have been pleased with the social science research that emerged 20 years after his passing showing the effects of racial and class segregation. King’s second area that social scientists could support the civil rights cause was in political action. He cited several studies that have examined political activism (i.e. galvanizing more African Americans to vote and create a bloc):

The need for a penetrating massive scientific study of this subject cannot be overstated. Lipset in 1957 asserted that a limitation in focus in political sociology has resulted in a failure of much contemporary research to consider a number of significant theoretical questions. The time is short for social science to illuminate this critically important area. If the main thrust of Negro effort has been, and remains, substantially irrelevant, we may be facing an agonizing crisis of tactical theory.

His third area of research he suggested was psychological and ideological change among African Americans.

Social science is needed to explain where this development is going to take us. Are we moving away, not from integration, but from the society which made it a problem in the first place? How deep and at what rate of speed is this process occurring? These are some vital questions to be answered if we are to have a clear sense of our direction.

He then turns his argument toward a particular solution offered by a sociologist. He prefaces this section of his talk by first mentioning African American patriotism:

As I have said time and time again, Negroes still have faith in America. Black people still have faith in a dream that we will all live together as brothers in this country of plenty one day.

But I was distressed when I read in the New York Times of Aug. 31, 1967; that a sociologist from Michigan State University, the outgoing president of the American Sociological Society, stated in San Francisco that Negroes should be given a chance to find an all Negro community in South America: ‘that the valleys of the Andes Mountains would be an ideal place for American Negroes to build a second Israel.’ He further declared that ‘The United States Government should negotiate for a remote but fertile land in Equador, Peru or Bolivia for this relocation.’

I feel that it is rather absurd and appalling that a leading social scientist today would suggest to black people, that after all these years of suffering an exploitation as well as investment in the American dream, that we should turn around and run at this point in history. I say that we will not run! Professor Loomis even compared the relocation task of the Negro to the relocation task of the Jews in Israel. The Jews were made exiles. They did not choose to abandon Europe, they were driven out. Furthermore, Israel has a deep tradition, and Biblical roots for Jews. The Wailing Wall is a good example of these roots. They also had significant financial aid from the United States for the relocation and rebuilding effort. What tradition does the Andes, especially the valley of the Andes Mountains, have for Negroes?

King’s geopolitical and historical synthesis is remarkable, and undoubtedly his theological training helped him to some extent. Here’s the paper that King was referring to. His point is well taken and speaks to the problem of suggesting solutions to social inequality without much connection to the vulnerable communities most affected by those solutions. King concludes with his own take on social science research with a clever use of a widely used psychological concept, “maladjustment.” He first points out what’s so helpful about this term for American society, the need to root out destructive maladjustment. But then he turns this into a sociological issue:

But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

And he ends with the call for a new organization, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment, again invoking the Bible (specifically the Old Testament prophet Amos).

Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’; or as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who in the midst of his vacillations finally came to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; or as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, could scratch across the pages of history, words lifted to cosmic proportions, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

Drawing together sacred scripture with major historical figures of America’s political arena, King masterfully conveyed a picture that is unapologetically American in its creativity, innovation and pragmatism. Knowing his audience, his suggestion of a new association fits well with the assumptions of the social science community: progress is collaborative and relies on cooperation among many minds. But he did so without getting bogged down with jargon, but rather appealed to their civic and religious sensibilities. In doing so I imagine he alienated some, caused others to reflect, and draw praise from others.

It would be interesting to have a conversation over the structure and aims of an AACM today, and a quick search on Google reveals that indeed such an organization exists. What do you think of King’s idea, could we use an Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment? Would we benefit with a collaborative network of scholars who help promote the cause for social justice by revealing the complexities of our ever-increasing societies? If so, what would it look like today?

What Good are “Crippled” Children?

I commonly teach an introductory sociology course each semester to approximately 200 students. I run it mostly as a lecture, although I regularly ask them questions—including opinion questions—in part because I want them to participate but also because I’d like to know what and how they think. On the first day of class I typically spend about half an hour talking about the kinds of questions we’ll cover over the course of the semester. Among those questions are ones like these:

  • Who do we trust? Who are your authorities?
  • Why is it so hard to change the way things are?
  • What or who determines what is “normal?”

Students (and I as well) often like to hear others’ answers to these questions. And then to introduce the idea of stratification—to be touched upon later in the semester—I pose this dilemma to them:

If there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in the lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mom, and a garbageman, and one person had to be thrown overboard to save the others, which person should we choose?

I then walk around the classroom asking particular individuals for their response and the logic behind it. Different semesters have produced different clusters of answers to the question, which makes sense. But I pressed this group a bit longer than average. Some didn’t wish to weigh in; others said they ought to “draw straws.” One nobly—in my mind, at least—said simply that it should be a male, which led to a discussion of whether complete egalitarianism is optimal in emergencies or whether “women and children first” ought still hold. (They didn’t seem much into tradition.)

Plenty, however, did offer their opinion. The modal answer is always “crippled child.” The female doctor is never chosen. The other three tend to be selected in roughly comparable numbers. I ask them for their rationale, and it typically consists of this:

  • A crippled child cannot survive on its own.
  • A crippled child isn’t productive.
  • A crippled child’s future isn’t as bright as that of the others.

They often dislike hearing themselves say such things, but nor do they wish to actively deny them. The first “crippled child” response almost always used to generate grumbling among other students. It hasn’t for the last several semesters, if my memory serves me. While I don’t consider that there are obviously right answers to the question, some answers and logics seem more or less concerning to me. (And the simple existence of stratification is understood.)

The value of a university education is, of course, increasingly tied to credentialing, the promise of a good job, a lucrative career, etc. Economic productivity. Indeed, a career path is an assumption made of all students. To hear someone say they’d like to be a stay-at-home mother is now unheard of, even if some—a decreasing minority—will still elect that pathway in the future.

And that reminded me of Wendell Berry, who could use a bit of better press among conservatives than he earned the other day. Generally I much respect his perspective. When once criticized for noting that his wife helped him edit his work, and was not in the paid labor force, he struck back:

…what appears to infuriate them the most is their supposition that she works for nothing. They assume—and this is the orthodox assumption of the industrial economy—that the only help worth giving is not given at all, but sold.

I worry about my students, about the world they’ve inherited from their parents, the one they are reproducing. Dignity is a foreign word, and personhood nearly as much. A strong egalitarianism will come with a hefty price tag. I fear many won’t be productive enough to afford it.