Founding Director, Asian/Asian American Studies
Dr. Thomas Tam Visiting Professor (2014-2015), CUNY
Ph.D., Brown University, 1993
Immigrants and immigration, religion, ethnicity, immigrant politics, India
SOC 614 - Intro to Qualitative Research M 5:15 - 8:00 pm
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 and organizations often provide the
setting within which new ethnics confront the racialization they experience
within the wider society and engage with their homelands. I also focus on the
ways in 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 work has been
recognized with a Contribution to the Field award, two national book awards,
and three national article awards.
Contribution to the
2014, Asia and Asian
America section, American Sociological Association.
2003 Book Award, Asia and Asian American section, American Sociological
Association Kaleidoscopic Ethnicity: International Migration and the
Reconstruction of Community Identities in India, Rutgers University Press,
Mention, Sociology of Religion section, American Sociological Association
A Place at the
Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism. 2007.
2005 Distinguished Article Award, Religion section, American Sociological
2005 Distinguished Article Award, Society for the Scientific Study of
“Multiculturalism and Ethnic Nationalism: The Development of an
” Social Problems, 2004, Vol 51 (3): 362-385.
paper award, Asia and Asian American section, American Sociological
“Decoupling Religion and Ethnicity: Second-Generation Indian American
”Qualitative Sociology 2012, 35(4):447- 468.
My third book, Ethnic
Church meets Mega Church: Indian American Christianity in Motion (NYU
press) is forthcoming in April 2017.
It examines how a new paradigm of ethnicity and
religion is shaping contemporary immigrant religious institutions and the intergenerational
transmission of religion. Classic assimilation theory was based on the
assumption of individualistic adaptation, with immigrants and their children
expected to shed their ethnic identities to become Americans. In the sphere of
religion, however, they could maintain their communitarian traditions through
American denominations. In contemporary society, multiculturalism, spiritual
seeking, and postdenominationalism have reversed this paradigm. First- and
second-generation immigrants integrate by remaining ethnic and
group-identified, but religion is viewed as a personal quest.
Drawing on multi-sited field research in the United
States and India, including interviews and participant observation in the Mar
Thoma Syrian Christian denomination belonging
to an ancient South Indian community, it looks at the shifts in the
understandings of its members regarding their ethnic and Christian identity as
a result of their U.S. migration and the coming of age of the American-born
widespread prevalence of mega churches and the dominance of American
evangelicalism created an environment in which the traditional
practices of the Mar Thoma church seemed alien to its American-born generation.
Second-generation Mar Thoma Americans were caught
between their criticisms of the “ethnic” character of the Mar Thoma church and
its traditions, and their appreciation for the social support its warm
community and familial relationships provided them as they were growing up.
This book, while showcasing these dynamics among the first and second
generations in the United States, is also a case study of global religion. It
examines how transnational processes shape religion in both the place of
destination and the place of origin. Taking a long view, it examines how the
forces of globalization, from the period of colonialism to contemporary
large-scale outmigration, have brought about tremendous changes in Christian
communities in the global South.
am currently working on a book manuscript, “Race, Religion, and Citizenship:
The Political Mobilization of Indian Americans.” 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.
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 US 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. I am currently
working on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation, “The
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 mobilization of religious
minorities from South Asia. This research also examines how different
opportunity structures (both national and regional), and differences in the
characteristics of the groups shape how they frame their grievances and
mobilize, and whether the mobilization takes an “ethnic,” “racial,” or