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"Sociological research can descriptively map the contours and proportions of social life by simplifying features of the social world relevant to a particular interest and representing them with symbols...All such descriptions oversimplify the complexity of the real social world in which we live...But, as with maps generally, such simplified descriptions can help to provide an overarching sense of our social world, where we stand within it, and what it looks like beyond our immediate field of vision." - Soul Searching

 

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Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. Smith's research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture. Smith received his MA and PhD from Harvard University in 1990 and his BA from Gordon College in 1983. Smith was a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 12 years before his move to Notre Dame.

Smith's larger theoretical agenda has been to move culture, morality, and identity to the center of sociological theorizing generally and the sociology of religion specifically. Smith's early work on social movements emphasized not only structural political opportunities but also personal moral motivations for participation in social movement activism. In his work on American Evangelicals, Smith developed a subcultural identity theory of religious persistence and strength in the modern world and highlighted the immense cultural complexities within conservative Protestantism. The Secular Revolution emphasized the centrality of culture, agency, and moral vision by religiously hostile actors in the secularization of American public life. Moral, Believing Animals; anthropology underscored the morally-oriented, narratological, and epistemically anti-foundationalist condition of human personhood. Smith's more recent work on the religious and spiritual lives of U.S. adolescents emphasizes the interplay of broad cultural influences, family socialization, and religious motivations in forming teenager's life outcomes. Behind and contributing to these sociological emphases are the philosophical works of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre, a critical realist philosophy of social science, and an interpretive-hermeneutical understanding of sociology.