I study how the category of “religion” is created and used in everyday life, as well as how religion interacts with other social spheres, especially politics. My most recent project examined these themes among American atheists and evangelical Christians. Questions that inform my research in this area include:
How do people create and re-create the category of “religion?” How is the category of religion related to other social categories, such as politics? What is the shape of the secular in America?
To better investigate religion as a category, I focus on the “practical definitions” that actors produce – both in reflection and in action. A practical definition of religion consists of the content of what a particular social actor in practice considers to be religion and religious, the boundaries between religion and non-religion, and the variation of the content and boundaries of religion across different social and cognitive contexts. In other words, a practical definition of religion is a description of how social actors act, refrain from acting, and understand their actions, in practice and across various contexts in regards to religion.