Introducing Mark Hulsether's scholarship

My writing and teaching explores the interplay among religion, culture, and society in recent U.S. history. I use interdisciplinary methods and give special attention to the Protestant left and religion in popular music.

If we imagine these interests as concentric circles, the inner one is studying U.S. culture since 1950. My work addresses issues such as the rise of the Christian Right, popular culture, and how religion relates to race, gender, class, and empire. My book Religion, Culture, and Politics in the Twentieth-Century United States synthesizes scholarship in such areas with an aim of deepening reflection on religion in the field of American Studies. I argue against uncritical forms of a pluralist interpretive paradigm, and instead focus on power conflicts and contestation internal to particular situations and traditions. Another book, Building a Protestant Left, analyzes the religious-political magazine, Christianity and Crisis. This journal's changing social analyses and religious priorities transformed it from a pillar of the Cold War establishment into a radical critic of race and gender injustice and U.S. empire. Studying it, we can explore how radical political theologies unfolded and how Protestant leaders interacted with social movements from the 1940s to 1980s.

Two current book projects extend this work: One Cheer for Left-Liberal Protestantism: Why the Common Narrative About Its Decline is Often Misleading and Listening for More: Spirituality and Cultural Critique in American Popular Music. In recent years I have put considerable effort into writing for forums that blend scholarly reflection with public cultural criticism, such as ReligionDispatches, Sacred Matters, and Religion & Politics. Many of my developing ideas appear in early forms in such places.

My middle circle of interest is to place recent issues in a longer frame of North American history, especially since the late 1800s but extending to before European conquest. My survey courses on religion in North America fall here, as do many publications.

Other circles situate my concerns in wider horizons: situating the U.S. in global contexts and engaging with cross-disciplinary debate about methods for studying culture. Some of my most sustained work moves in such orbits, including advanced courses on method in Religious Studies and American Studies, as well as chapters in the Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, New Approaches to the Study of Religion, and Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture. I have long been interested in relations between the U.S. and other parts of the world, especially Latin America.

Overall, I seek to understand how religious practices relate to wider social issues and fields of power, as well as to build bridges between exemplary work in the academic study of religion and North American cultural studies. I invite you to read my publications or take my classes, so that we can discuss these matters and learn from each other.

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