Author Archives: Kathleen Oberlin

About Kathleen Oberlin

Kathleen C. Oberlin is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Indiana University. Her current research focuses on how social movement organizations engage in alternative institution building to enact desired cultural change, particularly challenges to the authority of mainstream science.

Review of Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism

Worthen, Molly. 2014. Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. Oxford University Press.

Worthen, Molly. 2014. Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. Oxford University Press.

The role of ideas for collective action has long been regarded as central to the study of social movements. However, the focus fluctuates between implicit and explicit discussions. This vacillation is complicated by the fact that, at times, ideology has been perceived as a derogatory component only advanced by religious, social, or political extremists (Oliver and Johnston 2000; Kniss and Burns 2004). Too often, when scholars attempt to distinguish the role ideology plays in movement mobilization and potentially factionalism, it gets reduced to artificially simple and coherent sets of ideas that necessarily unite members. Yet, ideologies center on cognitive, emotional, and morally charged experiences for individuals and groups as they are localized and constructed in response to varied knowledge and conditions; it’s the very stuff that we have stakes in for understanding any social movement (Williams and Platt 2002). In light of this, then, ideological production and negotiation are vital to examine, as they point to how movements choose among alternative courses of action.

Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism by Molly Worthen takes up a history of ideas and institutions that undergird the twentieth century evangelical movement in the United States. Tracing the core act of ideas and thinking—judgment, reasoning, making connections—Worthen elaborates upon the evangelical “imagination” challenging readers to not just view it as a singular mindset. Continue reading

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Q&A with Academics Stand Against Poverty

I recently had the opportunity to communicate with Rachel Payne who is the project manager of the group Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP). I asked about their work, what they hope to achieve, and how they straddle the world(s) of academia and policy-making. I continue to wonder about how these groups fit into the many discussions among those affiliated with universities concerning how to collaborate, reach, or otherwise influence broader audiences. Below are my questions and her responses on behalf of ASAP. Check it out.

(1)What, as organized academics specifically, does ASAP stand to bring to the table as opposed to joining other efforts simply as individual activists?
As a global network of poverty-focused researchers, ASAP stands to offer academics opportunities for collaboration that they wouldn’t have otherwise. ASAP has chapters in Canada, Germany, India, Oceania, Spain, the UK, and the US, with individual members working at universities, research centers, and NGOs around the world. By expanding and maintaining that network, we hope to offer scholars opportunities to carry out collaborative research with outstanding potential to positively impact the lives of people living in poverty—research that cuts across disciplinary boundaries and political borders. In particular, we are working to use the ASAP network to provide more and better opportunities to poverty-focused scholars based in developing countries to participate in international academic initiatives and debates.

The ASAP network can also serve as a venue for mentorship. Academics with experience working with civil society organizations and policy makers can share their skills and insights with younger academics looking to enhance their social impact. These experienced academic activists can also serve as role models for younger scholars making important decisions about career trajectory.

Another motivation for building and maintaining this network is the possibility of enhancing the public influence of poverty-focused scholars. When weighing in on an important policy debate—for example, on levels of overseas development assistance amid continuing domestic economic hardship—a coalition of academics is likely to be more influential than individual academics. Partnerships with civil society organizations would only enhance that influence.


(2) What is the relationship between ASAP and non-academic (currently unaffiliated) poverty researchers and activists? What is the envisioned nature of this collaboration?

We regularly collaborate with poverty-focused researchers who are not currently affiliated with any academic institution, particularly those who work at policy-oriented research centers and civil society organizations. We also seek out opportunities to collaborate with students, including undergraduates. Tying these groups together are commitment to academic inquiry and technical training that enables them to effectively propose and critique solutions to the problem of poverty.

(3) In reading through the history and current board membership, there appears to be some strong ties to particular disciplinary approaches e.g., philosophy. What is the goal in terms of multidisciplinarity? Are there efforts to engage more of the social sciences? Life and physical sciences? If so, may you provide some concrete examples?

ASAP’s founding board members are a group of philosophers and political theorists, but the ASAP network includes many academics disciplines, and we aim to make it even more diverse. Some of our leading projects are grounded in social and behavior sciences. For example, Moral Psychology and Poverty Alleviation is an effort to bring together academics who work in areas such as cognitive science, moral philosophy, and political science to discover more effective means of motivating individuals to act on their obligations to alleviate global poverty. The Global Poverty Consensus Report project involves identifying and developing consensus amongst academics—mostly economists and political scientists—about priorities for global development efforts after the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. In advocating for the Health Impact Fund, ASAP frequently partners with experts in the health sciences. We are excited to see projects emerge from other disciplines, as well.

(4) Are there any more specifics regarding US chapters? Currently on the website the page is unavailable.

With three ASAP board members affiliated with Yale University, we’ve made New Haven our base of operations in the United States. This October, ASAP will be co-sponsoring a major conference at Yale called Human Rights and Economic Justice: Essential Elements of the Post-MDG Agenda? If you’d like to attend this conference or get involved with ASAP’s work in New Haven, contact me, Rachel Payne, at rachel@academicsstand.org.

(5) Are there other affiliations with professional associations?

No, right now ASAP is not affiliated with any professional associations.

(6) How are research projects funded?

Thus far, ASAP’s research funding has come from academic grants and private donations. We’ve also just received a gift from the Frederick Mulder Charitable Trust to cover our core operational expenses. We also recently completed a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to benefit advocacy on the issue of illicit financial flows.

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Mobilizing Epistemic Conflict: Creationists and a Museum

By Kathleen Oberlin

Despite much activity within and around the institution of science, for scholars and activists alike a central question continues to linger: what else or who else do science-oriented movements target…and, increasingly, how should they go about doing it? I’ll draw from one familiar case, creationism, to speak to contemporary efforts to provoke social change in a way that surprised many.

With a well-known history dating back to the infamous Scopes Trial of 1925, the Creationist social movement draws upon both religion and science as sources of authority. While religion and science may not permanently or inherently be at odds with one another, at least since the late 19th century in the United States, the boundaries between the two have been fiercely contested. Continue reading

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Having It All, They Promised…Right?

Unless you’ve recently opted for a blog/media/pop culture break this June, you most likely encountered Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic piece, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The author puts forth to her mind a pragmatic approach. Effectively: not everyone can be a superwoman (superman, which is less of a focus but sprinkled throughout) so we better get to ameliorating the situation by setting realistic individual goals and encourage changes in workplace policies, with a significant push for more women in the upper echelons of power. Slaughter’s article gained substantial traction. To use social media speak, it became a ‘trending article’ when a number of bloggers along with Facebook and Twitter users linked to it, in addition to many news and magazine outlets discussing ‘having it all’ at length. Continue reading

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Recall Elections: The (Con)tested Grievance Tactic

Kathleen C. Oberlin

Journalists and pundits alike clamored to interpret the recall election that took place in Wisconsin last week on June 5th. As Republicans beam with pride over Governor Scott Walker’s steadfast hold onto his seat, the Democrats are left to reevaluate among many issues whether or not the recall election is a tactic to continue to use in the current political climate. For those unfamiliar with what exactly a recall entails or where and when it can be done (presumably many of us), check out the national center for state legislators’ overview. Until recently state level (e.g., assembly members, governors) recall efforts were quite rare. It remains to be seen if this will continue in the future as a viable means to channel grievances. Continue reading

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