WGSS Colloquium: Legal Imaginaries and the Politics of Religion
Thursday, December 5
4:00PM, Diamond 123
Presented by Professor Damon Mayrl
Law is an essential social institution that both reflects and shapes power relations across lines of social difference, including religious difference. Yet its ability to effect social change is not automatic. It instead depends on the actions and interpretations of various local agents for implementation, and grassroots understandings of the law and its demands do not necessarily map onto official legal categories and doctrines. The US Supreme Court’s decisions on religious freedom and disestablishment, for instance, have often provoked resistance and counter-mobilization. In this talk, I present some initial findings from a new qualitative study of local church-state relations in Maine. I examine how religious leaders think about the law and how it binds and enables them, and consider how those perceptions are socially constituted, with particular attention to the role of gender and sexuality in shaping their understandings.
Damon Mayrl is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Colby College, where he studies the interplay of religion, politics, culture, and history. He is the author of Secular Conversions: Political Institutions and Religious Education in the United States and Australia, 1800-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2016). His current research projects examine how symbolic conflicts affect the form and visibility of the American state, how historical and comparative methods are actually practiced in social scientific research, and how local religious and political leaders are navigating changes in American church-state law.