Publications

Please contact me if you require a copy of any of the articles listed here.

Refereed

2017. “Reassembling the City through Instagram.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, doi:10.1111/tran.12185 (with Justus Uitermark).

Abstract: How do people represent the city on social media? And how do these representations feed back into people’s uses of the city? To answer these questions, we develop a relational approach that relies on a combination of qualitative methods and network analysis. Based on in-depth interviews and a dataset of over 400,000 geotagged Instagram posts from Amsterdam, we analyse how the city is reassembled on and through the platform. By selectively drawing on the city, users of the platform elevate exclusive and avant-garde establishments and events, which come to stand out as hot spots, while rendering mundane and low-status places invisible. We find that Instagram provides a space for the segmentation of users into subcultural groups that mobilise the city in varied ways. Social media practices, our findings suggest, feed on as well as perpetuate socio-spatial inequalities.

2016. “How to Study the City on Instagram.” PLOS ONE, vol. 11, no. 6, p. e0158161 (with Justus Uitermark).

Abstract: We introduce Instagram as a data source for use by scholars in urban studies and neighboring disciplines and propose ways to operationalize key concepts in the study of cities. These data can help shed light on segregation, the formation of subcultures, strategies of distinction, and status hierarchies in the city. Drawing on two datasets of geotagged Instagram posts from Amsterdam and Copenhagen collected over a twelve-week period, we present a proof of concept for how to explore and visualize sociospatial patterns and divisions in these two cities. We take advantage of both the social and the geographic aspects of the data, using network analysis to identify distinct groups of users and metrics of unevenness and diversity to identify socio-spatial divisions. We also discuss some of the limitations of these data and methods and suggest ways in which they can complement established quantitative and qualitative approaches in urban scholarship.

2015. “The Axial Age and the Problems of the Twentieth Century: Du Bois, Jaspers, and Universal History.” The American Sociologist, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 234—247.

Abstract: The axial age debate has put big questions of social and cultural change back on the agenda of sociology. This paper takes this development as an occasion to reflect on how social thought works with (and against) nineteenth-century intellectual traditions in its efforts to understand history on a macro scale. Karl Jaspers, who initially formulated the axial age thesis in The Origin and Goal of History, revised the Hegelian account of world history by broadening the scope of the narrative to encompass all civilizations participating in the events of the first millennium BCE that saw the rise of major philosophical and religious traditions. However, his account, like the earlier philosophical accounts he seeks to improve upon, privileges cognitive developments over material practices and social interactions, and as such offers little to those seeking to make sense of how cultural patterns interact with others and spread. Here another social theorist engaging with Hegel, W. E. B. Du Bois, provides a helpful contrast. His account of the development of double-consciousness in “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” the opening chapter of The Souls of Black Folk, helps us to understand experiences of encounter and the perduring historical effects they may have. Du Bois’ relational theory reminds us of the importance of unpacking abstractions and understanding processes in terms of social interactions.

2013. “Inventing the Axial Age: The Origins and Uses of a Historical Concept.” Theory and Society, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 241—259 (with John Torpey).

Abstract: The concept of the axial age, initially proposed by the philosopher Karl Jaspers to refer to a period in the first millennium BCE that saw the rise of major religious and philosophical figures and ideas throughout Eurasia, has gained an established position in a number of fields, including historical sociology, cultural sociology, and the sociology of religion. We explore whether the notion of an “axial age” has historical and intellectual cogency, or whether the authors who use the label of a more free-floating “axiality” to connote varied “breakthroughs” in human experience may have a more compelling case. Throughout, we draw attention to ways in which uses of the axial age concept in contemporary social science vary in these and other respects. In the conclusion, we reflect on the value of the concept and its current uses and their utility in making sense of human experience.

Dissertation

2015. “Blessed Disruption: Culture and Urban Space in a European Church Planting Network.” City University of New York.

Other

Forthcoming. Translation of Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” Metropolis: Center and Symbol of Our Times, second edition, ed. Philip Kasinitz (New York: NYU Press).

Translator’s Note: Two previous translations of this essay have been in wide circulation: The first was by Edward Shils, produced in the mid-1930s, and the second by Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills, from the late 1940s. Both opted to render Simmel’s philosophical idiom in psychologistic terms, translating Seele (soul) as “psyche” and Geist (spirit) as “mind” or “mental.” With their overtones of behaviorism, these translations clearly bear the mark of their time. I have opted to return, as much as is reasonably possible without sacrificing lucidity, to Simmel’s idiom. Social thought in the early twentieth century felt the need to “secularize” the language of spirits and souls inherited from the previous century in order to appear properly scientific, while today many social theorists recognize that this language has multiple genealogies and that we do not have to break with it fully. Thus, a more faithful translation of this essay’s title would be “The Metropolis and the Life of Spirit,” but I opted to retain the established title to avoid confusion. Simmel often uses multiple metaphors and other devices to convey his meaning, to the point where exact translation, while possible, would make the text needlessly opaque. I attempted, as much as possible, “to present a Simmel whose language has come of age in the present and for the future,” as Lawrence Scaff recently put it (Contemporary Sociology, vol. 40, no. 1, 2011). Finally, unlike both previous translations, I strove for more gender-neutral language, which is closer to Simmel’s text—and his intentions—than the heavily male language of Shils, Gerth and Mills.

2012. “Provincializing the European Religious Landscape.” Perspectives on Europe 42(1): 80—83. (full text)

2012. “The Bible as Floral Pattern.” Standplaats Wereld, June 22.

2009—2012. Contributions to The Immanent Frame. A selection:

2009. “Icons of the New Evangelicalism.” Killing the Buddha, September 6.