Crossing and Dwelling

It has been a while since I last posted a professional update here. The reason hasn’t been a lack of news, but rather that so much was in flux, it was difficult to decide on the right time for a stocktaking. Then, when things began settling down earlier this year, I dove right into my new work, leading me to prioritize other things. The biggest news is that I started a new job at the beginning of the calendar year. I can bike to my new place of work, and perhaps you can guess where my new job is from the landmark that I pass on my way there.

By Matthew Black, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license.

As of January 1, I am a postdoctoral researcher in the sociology department of the University of Amsterdam. For the next three years, I will be conducting research at the intersection of culture, religion, the urban, and digital media. The project website is yet to be completed, but in the meantime some further background on this research project is available.

The project aligns nicely with my previous fieldwork on urban church planting, and I am particularly excited about the combination of ethnographic and computational approaches that we are developing on the empirical side of things, as well as the theoretical debates we hope to participate in. I started a research blog where I hope to post on my research process from time to time. See my introductory post. With Justus Uitermark, the co-PI on the project on the Amsterdam side, I recently completed a paper that analyzes over 400,000 Instagram posts from Amsterdam. Take a look (let me know if you don’t want to sign up for academia.edu and I’ll email it to you). Justus will be presenting it at the RC21 conference in Urbino, Italy, next week, so make sure to attend our session if you’re going to be there.

UvA is a great place to work, and my team, my program group, the sociology department as well as the wider world of UvA social sciences that we share a building with are great communities to be a part of.

Prior to starting at UvA, I was privileged to be affiliated with the University of Utrecht’s Center for the Humanities. The Center, which is directed by Rosi Braidotti, participates in an international project on Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging, and I was kindly invited by Ernst van den Hemel, who coordinates the project on the Utrecht side, to join their research team on a visiting basis. The highlight of my time at Utrecht was the workshop with the other groups participating in the RelSec project hailing from Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Tucson, Arizona, and Portland, Oregon. We had lively debates on nationalism and civil religion, political theology, science, and a variety of conceptual and methodological issues in the study of religion and secularism.

The other advantage of being in Utrecht was to have the opportunity to take part in the many exciting things the religious studies department, chaired by Birgit Meyer, undertakes. Truly an inspiring group.

In other, no less exciting news: Earlier this year, I successfully defended my dissertation; it should appear in the CUNY institutional repository soon. (Update: It’s there!) I’m obviously glad to have completed that, but I’m also sad that I am now no longer affiliated with CUNY. As somebody once put it, CUNY has a way of getting in your veins.

Finally, an article of mine, based on my presentation of the history of sociology symposium in 2013, recently appeared in The American Sociologist. Thanks to my UvA affiliation, it appears under an open access license! (Yeah, Dutch universities kind of rock when it comes to that stuff.) We’ll see whether it gets that OA bump. It might help if I actually link to it. So, have a link. In fact, have two.