At its core, my research examines processes of ethnic and national identity formation and the material and humanitarian consequences that can result from the drawing of exclusionary social boundaries. My first project examines these processes by analyzing the underlying rationale of religious nationalism. Under what circumstances does religious identification become politically meaningful? How do nationalists go about the process of group identity formation, constructing ethnic communities around cultural and religious identities? How and why do those identities contribute to exclusionary processes of social boundary making that systematically advantage some groups over others?
My research answers these questions by using comparative and historical methods to construct a new boundary-oriented theory that explains the role of religion in forging national identity in Ireland and Turkey. An analysis of official rhetoric and state policies regarding immigration, the relationship between religious organizations and the state, and treatment of religious minorities provides a top-down approach to the study of religious nationalism. This analysis reveals the extent to which nationalist and government leaders sought to use religion to strengthen national boundaries, consolidating national identity through religious homogenization and exclusion. In contrast, examination of the everyday lived experience of common citizens provides a bottom-up approach that reveals the ways people really thought about their religious and national identities on the ground. Most importantly, such an approach reveals the time and circumstances in which such identities are, and are not, politically relevant. This type of analysis thus helps us understand the conditions under and process by which religious identities become politicized in the minds of the populace. This project has also branched off to include a study of forced migration, population exchange and refugee management in comparative perspective, issues of critical concern in today’s global environment. Preliminary research from this project has been published in the journals Social Science History, Nationalities Papers, and Patterns of Prejudice and a book manuscript expanding on these themes is under consideration at three university presses.
My second project draws upon similar themes to analyze patterns of identity formation in the United States. Here I examine the rise of Alt-Right and White Nationalist groups, movements that promote explicitly exclusionary definitions of American identity. I take as a case study the intersection of such political ideologies with the realm of popular culture, examining how movements and leaders of these parties seized upon cultural arenas such as video games and science fiction awards ceremonies to combat the influence of what they considered hegemonic liberal “Social Justice Warriors,” enemies they felt had stripped white, conservative, Christian men of cultural and political capital, excluding them from their accustomed roles in important social and political fields. Though still in its early stages, this research has provided important insights into the networks of relationships that have encouraged Alt-Right groups to view popular culture as an effective arena within which to express their political grievances, and the tactics they have used to rally support for their cause.