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Maxwell School

Prema Kurien

Professor, Sociology


Contact Information

317 Maxwell Hall
(315) 443-1152
Curriculum Vitae
Kurien CV

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


Spring 2016:

SOC 800  - Multiculturalism, Secularism & Contemporary Immigrants    T    5:00 - 7:45 pm



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.

Book Awards:
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.

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 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 book manuscript.  

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.


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