Peer Reviewed Manuscripts

Vaidyanathan, Brandon, Simranjit Khalsa, and Elaine Howard Ecklund. 2018. “Naturally Ambivalent: Religion’s Role in Shaping Environmental Action” Sociology of Religion. doi: 10.1093/socrel/srx043

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Abstract

This article examines the role of religion in shaping environmental action by bringing contemporary arguments in cultural sociology to bear on longstanding debates about the role of religion in environmental care. Drawing on 169 in-depth interviews from 22 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish congregations in Houston and Chicago, we examine conditions under which religion enables and constrains environmental action. Findings reveal that religious institutions can motivate members’ environmental actions when they cultivate not only declarative environmental beliefs but also nondeclarative environmental practices. Religion may inhibit environmental concern when respondents believe environmental commitment undermines their religious beliefs, but such justifications are disconnected from the actual environmental practices they nevertheless engage in. We also find that religious individuals largely attribute motivations for their environmental action to institutions other rather than religion. Our findings shed new theoretical light on the mixed results that characterize research on religion and the environment.

Khalsa, Simranjit. 2017. “A Faith for All: Boundaries of Religion and Ethnicity among Sikhs in the US” Sociology of Religion 78(3):340-362.

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Abstract

The religious demographics of the United States are changing, shaped by immigration and conversion of Americans to non-Western religious traditions. Research on nonwhite immigrant religious traditions has not addressed how communities of white converts challenge the link between religion and ethnicity. I address this gap, drawing on participant observation and 31 in-depth interviews with both Indian Sikhs and members of Sikh Dharma, a predominantly white Sikh community. I find that although respondents in each community draw on the same elements to construct Sikh identity (symbols, values, and practices); they diverge in regards to the specific practices they emphasize. Members of Sikh Dharma redefine both Sikh practice and the boundaries around Sikhism, incorporating new practices and beliefs while also critiquing the interconnection of Punjabi culture with Sikhism. Indian Sikhs express concern about the presentation of these new practices as Sikh practices. Results have implications for the ever-changing relationship of religion and ethnicity.

Peifer, Jared, Simranjit Khalsa, and Elaine Howard Ecklund. 2016. “Political Conservatism, Religion, and Environmental Consumption in the United States” Environmental Politics 25(4):661-689

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Abstract

The role of political conservatism and religion in shaping attitudes toward environmental consumption in the US is examined. Previous research suggests that while there is a mixed relationship between religiosity (measured in various ways) and environmentalism, political conservatives are unlikely to support pro-environment measures. Using nationally representative survey data, mixed results are found regarding the relationship of religiosity and environmental consumption: religious attendance and religious identity are positively related to environmental consumption, while belief in an involved God and biblical literalism are negatively related. Increased levels of religiosity, however, mute the otherwise strong negative effect of political conservatism. This suggests, surprisingly, that Green marketers and activists are likely to face less conservative resistance to environmental consumption among religious Americans.

Vaidyanathan, Brandon, Simranjit Khalsa, and Elaine Howard Ecklund. 2016. “Gossip as Social Control: Policing Informal Ethical Violations in Scientific Workplaces of India, the US, and the UK” Social Problems 63(4):554-572

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Abstract

Research on misconduct in science has largely focused on egregious violations such as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. Recent scholarship, however, calls for greater attention to forms of everyday misconduct and how scientists navigate ethical ambiguity when they are unable or unwilling to make formal accusations. Drawing on interview data from 251 physicists and biologists from both elite and non-elite universities and research institutes in the US, UK, and India, we find that scientists are often reticent or unable to take formal action against many behaviors they perceive as unethical and irresponsible. As a result, they resort to informal gossip to warn colleagues of transgressors. Many express confidence that such prosocial gossip can serve as a means of social control by tarnishing the reputations of transgressors. Yet its effectiveness as a form of social control is limited, particularly when transgressors enjoy higher status than gossipers. We identify two types and three consequences of such gossip and assess the effectiveness of gossip as a means of social control. Finally, we consider the implications of our study for understanding and decreasing misconduct in science.

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