Research Bio


My research examines the intersection of religion and politics in Early America and the larger Atlantic diaspora. My principal focus is on the influence of religious ideas in constructing both the religious and political “other” in early American society, with particular interest on issues of race, heresy, political identity, and social hierarchy. Major questions that animate my work are the role of religious thought in forming American identity in the pre-national and early national periods, the role sectarian xenophobia and fear played in constructing political identity, and what insights the study of these issues offers modern political and religious debates surrounding American identity and, more generally, the role of religion in American thought. My current book project Fear and Loathing and Freedom: Early American Xenophobia and the Paradoxical Roots of American Pluralism examines how the English tradition of anti-Catholicism came to inform American religious dissenters’ notions of individual autonomy and democracy, and the ways in which fears regarding the loss of freedom of conscience perpetuated those ideas in the decades leading into the American Revolution. Anti-Catholicism spawned an entire genre of vitriolic, derogatory public expression in Early America, but it also served as a means of expressing fears of corruption, tyranny, centralization, economic disparity, and, ultimately, the contours of American power. In this way, religious prejudice became a foundational component of democratic thought and speech in America. Ultimately, my research focuses on this paradox of how ideas and language that originate in fear, xenophobia, and conflict ultimately inform an American political and religious worldview defined by diversity, egalitarianism, pluralism, and individual freedom.


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