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
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
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 Field Award
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, 2002.
2009 Honorable 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 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.
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 the US. 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, “Ethnic
Church Meets Mega Church: Indian American Christians.” My work is based on
research in different parts of the US and India in parishes belonging to the
Eastern Reformed Mar Thoma Syrian Christian denomination based in South India with
branches all over the world, including a North American diocese. I have written
three journal articles and a chapter in an edited book from this project, examining
the encounter of the membership and leaders with American evangelicalism, the
intergenerational transmission of religion and culture within the church, and the
impact of international migration on the home church.
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 have made several presentations from this research
and have written two papers (currently under review). I will write two more
papers from this project over this academic year and then begin writing the
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 have begun
a research project funded by the National Science Foundation, “The
Incorporation of 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 will also examine 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 “religious” form.