skip to main content columnskip to left navigationskip to horizontal navigation

University News

Dr. Joseph Baker to become editor of Sociology of Religion journal
Dr. Joseph O. Baker, seated in office with open copy of Sociology of Religion journal

JOHNSON CITY (Aug. 7, 2019) – Dr. Joseph O. Baker of East Tennessee State University has been selected as the next editor of Sociology of Religion, the official peer-reviewed journal of the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR).

Baker, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in ETSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, will be introduced as the new editor-in-chief during the ASR’s annual meeting in August and will begin his four-year term Jan. 1, 2020.

During that same meeting, Baker and two co-authors, Dr. Andrew L. Whitehead of Clemson University and Dr. Samuel L. Perry of the University of Oklahoma, will receive the ASR’s Distinguished Article Award for their study, “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election,” which was published in the summer 2018 issue of Sociology of Religion.  That research has also been covered in the Washington Post and reported on CNN.

Baker, who has served two terms on the journal’s editorial board, will be responsible for appointing associate editors and new editorial board members.

Baker says that the journal, which is published by Oxford University Press, is the flagship journal for the subfield of sociology of religion, in which he specializes.

“I always found religion to be one of the most interesting areas of human behavior, both here and elsewhere,” Baker said.  “If you think about our region, of course, most people have religious influences, which affect the way people behave, the way they form families, and different sorts of things.  If you broaden that idea out and look at different types of religions and different areas, it’s just a fascinating area of study. 

“What we try to do is look at how religion affects human behavior, or not,” he continued.  “In addition to studying religion, I’ve published a book called ‘American Secularism,’ which is about atheists, agnostics, people who say they have no religion.  Essentially, I flipped the question around to ask how being non-religious affects people’s behaviors.  So we can study anything – we can study people who are deeply and fervently religious, if they’re religiously indifferent, or even if they’re anti-religious.”

Baker says that he and others who specialize in the sociology of religion separate their own personal beliefs from their studies.  “We don’t argue theology or anything – we see how people are affected by what they think about theology,” he says.  “We apply the idea of sociology to the study or religion, or non-religion.”

Through his role as editor of Sociology of Religion, Baker hopes to bring greater visibility to not only his sub-field of sociology, but such related sub-fields as the study of religion and politics or the study of religion and health and psychology.

“I want to make those connections broader and extend the visibility of what we’re doing, and try to make sure we extend and solidify the position of the journal as one of the premier outlets for research on religion,” he said.  “It’s a sociology journal, but if there are political scientists doing studies of religion and politics, we want them to use our research and cite it, and see us as a place to publish good work.  That has been done well by the current editor, so I want to take what he’s done, keep it going and extend it a little bit.”

Baker says his upcoming time as editor of the journal will provide a valuable opportunity for ETSU students, and particularly graduate students in sociology who are interested in pursuing doctoral studies, to see and assist with the behind-the-scenes operation of a peer-reviewed publication.

“I’m also pretty excited to bring this to ETSU, because it will be a nice tie-in to a high-quality publication,” he added.

In addition to his upcoming role as a journal editor, Baker has co-authored a new book titled “Deviance Management: Insiders, Outsiders, Hiders, and Drifters” with Dr. Christopher D. Baker, a professor of sociology at Chapman University.  Published by the University of California Press and due out in September, this book examines how individuals and subcultures manage the stigma of being labeled socially deviant. 

The authors explore high-tension religious groups, white power movements, paranormal subcultures, LGBTQ groups, drifters, recreational drug and alcohol users and others, identifying how and when people combat, defy, hide from or run from being stigmatized as “deviant.”

Media Contact:
Jennifer L. Hill


icon for left menu icon for right menu