Assistant Professor of Sociology
Faculty Fellow, Casden Institute of Jewish Studies
University of Southern California
I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California. I am interested in nation building, Irish and Jewish homeland-diaspora relations, theory, economic sociology, networks, and comparative historical methodology. My current research examines the formation of the Israel lobby in Washington in the 1950′s and 1960s.
My thinking is deeply influenced by Science and Technology Studies and comparative historical sociology. Whether my focus is on the process of nation building or miracle making, I always examine the practical organizational difficulties involved in particular endeavors and explore the socio-technical innovations that are introduced in order to overcome them.
In my research on nationalism, I study encounters between Irish nationals and Irish Americans and Israeli Jews and Jewish Americans to understand how national movements coordinate the divergent interests of the groups that compose the nation. Instead of depicting nationalism as an abstract “imagined community,” I identify concrete socio-technical mechanisms that allow the different groups that make up the nation to cooperate and make sense of their position in it.
Studying nation building as a practical organizational accomplishment allows me to bring nationalism down to earth and challenge some accepted truisms. First, rather than depicting nationalism as an abstraction, I show how concrete organizational mechanisms, like the exchange of objects and simulations, allow the different fragments of the nation to cohere. Second, the production of nations does not rely on creation of consensus, imagined or not, but on the operation of mechanisms that enable cooperation without consensus. Third, national subjects feel like “outsiders” at least as much as they feel like “insiders.” But this ambivalence is not necessarily a hindrance. In fact, subjects use this ambivalence to make sense of their own position within the nation. It enables them to cooperate despite existing inequalities and conflicts.