Recent Faculty Books

Author: Arts and Letters

Aid in Danger: The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism

Larissa Fast

Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution

Humanitarian aid workers increasingly remain present in contexts of violence and are injured, kidnapped, and killed as a result. Since 9/11 and in response to these dangers, aid organizations have fortified themselves to shield their staff and programs from outside threats. In Aid in Danger, Larissa Fast critically examines the causes of violence against aid workers and the consequences of the approaches agencies use to protect themselves from attack. Most explanations of attacks locate the causes externally and maintain an image of aid workers as an exceptional category. The resulting approaches to security rely on separation and fortification and alienate aid workers from those in need. Instead, Fast proposes a relational framework that captures both external threats and internal vulnerabilities.

University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014

Related story: New Research Reveals Dangers to Humanitarian Workers in Conflict Zones


Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone From the Church

Christian Smith

The William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology

with Kyle Longest, Jonathan Hill, Kari Christoffersen

Studies of young American Catholics over the last three decades suggest a growing crisis in the Catholic Church: compared to their elders, young Catholics are looking to the Church less as they form their identities, and fewer of them can even explain what it means to be Catholic and why that matters. Young Catholic America, based on the groundbreaking National Study of Youth and Religion, explores a crucial stage in life known as early “emerging adulthood.” Drawing on in-depth surveys and interviews of 18- to 23-year-olds, Christian Smith and his colleagues offer insight into the religious practices and beliefs among young Catholics, the influences and events that lead them to embrace or abandon the Church, and how being Catholic affects them as they become adults.

Oxford University Press, 2014

Related story: Sociologist Christian Smith Wins Multiple Book Awards


The Spirit’s Tether: Religion, the Family, and Moral Polarization among American Catholics

Mary Ellen Konieczny

Assistant Professor

Cultural conflicts about the family—including those surrounding women’s social roles, abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception—have intensified over the last few decades among Catholics. In fact, they are a primary source of political polarization. By exploring how religion and family life are intertwined in local parish settings, Mary Ellen Konieczny seeks to explain how and why Catholics are divided about the family. The Spirit’s Tether presents a comparative ethnographic analysis of the families in two Catholic parishes, one conservative and one progressive. The book reveals how parishes support and shape the routines of marriage, childrearing, and work-family balance, as well as how they connect these everyday challenges to public politics. Local parishes, Konieczny argues, promote polarization through practices that unintentionally fragment the Catholic tradition.

Oxford University Press, 2013

Related story: New Book Explores How Catholic Parishes Contribute to Polarization


When Peace Is Not Enough

Atalia Omer
Assistant Professor of Religion, Conflict, and Peace Studies
The state of Israel is often spoken of as a haven for the Jewish people, a place rooted in the story of a nation dispersed, wandering the earth in search of their homeland. Born in adversity but purportedly nurtured by liberal ideals, Israel has never known peace, experiencing instead a state of constant war that has divided its population over the relationship between unrestricted citizenship and Jewish identity. By focusing on the perceptions and histories of Israel’s most marginalized stakeholders—Palestinian Israelis, Arab Jews, and non-Israeli Jews—Atalia Omer cuts to the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict, demonstrating how these voices provide urgently needed resources for conflict analysis and peacebuilding.


Religious Nationalism: A Reference Handbook

Atalia Omer

Assistant Professor of Religion, Conflict, and Peace Studies

and Jason Springs

Assistant Professor of Religion, Ethics, and Peace Studies

Does religion cause violence? Is nationalism a quasi-religion? Are the constant conflicts around the world really about religion, or is religion merely a form of false consciousness? Is religious nationalism primarily a powerful tool political elites use to manipulate the masses? This book tackles the assumptions behind common understandings of religious nationalism, exploring the complex connections between religion, nationalism, conflict, and conflict transformation. Springs and Omer use a multidisciplinary approach and reframe the questions of religious nationalism within the perspectives of secularism, modernity, and Orientalism. In doing so, they enable readers to uncover their own presumptions regarding the role of religion in public life.

ABC-CLIO, 2013

Related story: New Book Explores Religion and Nationalism

Talk at the Brink: Deliberation and Decision During the Cuban Missile Crisis

David Gibson

Associate Professor

In October 1962, the fate of the world hung on the American response to the discovery of Soviet nuclear missile sites in Cuba. That response was informed by hours of discussions between John F. Kennedy and his top advisers. What those advisers did not know was that President Kennedy was secretly taping their talks, providing future scholars with a rare inside look at high-level political deliberation in a moment of crisis. Talk at the Brink examines the recordings from a sociological perspective, revealing how conversational practices and dynamics shaped Kennedy’s perception of the options. David Gibson argues that Kennedy’s decisions arose from the intersection of distant events unfolding in Cuba, Moscow, and the high seas with the immediate conversational minutia of turn-taking, storytelling, argument, and justification.

Princeton University Press, 2012

Related story: New Sociology Hires Bring Focus to Secrecy, Social Movements

Solidarity in Strategy

Lyn Spillman


Popular conceptions hold that capitalism is driven by the pursuit of profit and self-interest. Challenging that assumption, this study of American business associations shows how market and non-market relations are actually profoundly entwined at the heart of capitalism. In Solidarity in Strategy, Lyn Spillman draws on documentary archives and a comprehensive data set of more than 4,000 trade associations to reveal a busy and often surprising arena of economic activity. From the Intelligent Transportation Society to the American Gem Trade Association, Spillman explains how business associations are more collegial than cutthroat, and how they make capitalist action meaningful not only by developing shared ideas but also by articulating a disinterested solidarity that transcends those interests.

University of Chicago Press, 2012

Related story: Sociologist Lyn Spillman Awarded Two Book Prizes


Originally published by Arts and Letters at on April 21, 2014.