Maxwell School

Prema Kurien

Professor, Sociology


Contact Information

302 Maxwell Hall
(315) 443-1152

Curriculum Vitae
Kurien CV

Founding Director, Asian/Asian American Studies


Ph.D., Brown University, 1993


Immigrants and immigration, religion, ethnicity, immigrant politics, India


On leave for the 2014-2015 academic year.


My recent research focuses on race and ethnic group relations, as well as the role of religion in shaping group formation and mobilization among contemporary ethnic groups: I bring the areas of race, religion, and social movements together by examining how religious institutions often provide the setting within which new ethnics confront the racialization they experience within the wider society. I also focus on the ways in which religion becomes the axis around which such groups mobilize to challenge racial discrimination and to make claims regarding their “cultural citizenship.” I have received postdoctoral fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center, the Carnegie Corporation, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Louisville Institute, and the New Ethnic and Immigrant Congregations Project. My research has been recognized with two national book awards and three national article awards.

Book Awards:
2003Book Award, Asia and Asian American section, American Sociological AssociationKaleidoscopic Ethnicity: Internation Migration and the Reconstruction of Community Identities in India, Rutgers University Press, 2002.   

2009 Honorable Mention, Sociology of Religion section, American Sociological Association
A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism. 2007.

Article Awards:
2005 Distinguished Article Award, Religion section, American Sociological Association

2005 Distinguished Article Award, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion 
“Multiculturalism and Ethnic Nationalism: The Development of an American Hinduism.
Social Problems, 2004, Vol 51 (3): 362-385.

2013 Research paper award, Asia and Asian American section, American Sociological
“Decoupling Religion and Ethnicity: Second-Generation Indian American Christians.
Qualitative Sociology 2012, 35(4):447- 468.  



Research Projects


My second book, A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism 2007, discusses the new forms, practices, and interpretations of Hinduism in this country. I also examine the relationship between the institutionalization of Hinduism as a minority religion and the political mobilization of Hindu Indians seeking a place in multicultural America. In addition to the book, I have published a number of journal articles and chapters in edited books from this project.

I am currently working on a third book manuscript tentatively titled “Ethnic Church Meets Mega Church: Indian American Christian Social Incorporation.” My work is based on research in different parts of the United States and India focused on this denomination. I have written three journal articles and a chapter in an edited book from this project. My work examines transnationalism and intergenerational relationships among Indian Americans belonging to the Eastern Reformed Mar Thoma Syrian Christian denomination which is located in South India but now has branches all over the world, including a North American diocese. 

My interest in the way different Indian American groups have been coalescing and emerging in the public sphere led me to a project, “Race, Religion, and the Political Incorporation of Contemporary Immigrants.”It examines how first- and second-generation immigrants mobilize advocacy organizations around ethnic (Indian American), pan-ethnic (South Asian American), religious (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian), and party-oriented identities (Democrat and Republican). My research shows how these diverse forms of mobilization can develop within one immigrant group, and how they interact with each other while advocating for their respective goals. It also reveals how race and religion interact in complex ways to shape the political integration of immigrants. I completed this research project this summer by talking to Indian Americans who mobilized around the 2012 elections. I have made several presentations from this research and have written an article which presents the theoretical framework for the project. 

My work on the political incorporation of Indian Americans showed me that the way their ethnic advocacy organizations define grievances and develop strategies are profoundly shaped by the U.S. context. This led me to research that examines how differences in political structures, policies regarding immigrant integration and religion, as well as migration patterns, shape immigrant political activism. To examine this topic, I have begun a research project, “The Political Incorporation of Religious Minorities in Canada and the United States” examining how the social, political, and religious contexts of Canada and the United States shape the political incorporation and civic activism of religious minorities from South Asia. This research also aims to uncover the factors that influence the form that mobilization takes, and whether it takes an "ethnic," "racial," or "religious" form. It will examine how different opportunity structures (both national and local), and differences in the characteristics of the groups, shape how they frame their grievances and mobilize.




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