ASU alumnus receives grant to complete scholarly book

By

Matt Oxford

ASU alumnus Christopher Hale first grew an interest in the relationship between politics and religion from School of Politics and Global Studies professor Carolyn Warner. Those interests led him to researching the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Mexican state.

Christopher Hale is currently an assistant professor at the University of Alabama. He completed his PhD in political science at ASU in 2013.  Hale will receive a Book Writing Leave Grant from the Global Religion Research Initiative to complete his scholarly work on the configuration of non-state institutes and their impact on collective action.

“I noticed an interesting pattern that the church encouraged social movements in some regions but that it also seemed to stifle political activism in others,” Hale said. “That observation became the basis of my research question seeking to understand variation in the ability of religious institutions to facilitate political activism.”

Choosing Mexico was a logical choice for Hale for this study due to the strong presence of the Catholic Church and the large amount of statistical data detailing demographic characteristics.

For his upcoming book, Hale plans on expanding on the research that ASU political scientists Warner and Michael Hechter completed — specifically, Warner’s work on religious institution’s organizational structure having political consequences, and Hechter’s work on groups controlling individuals’ behavior through monitoring and sanctioning.

“I synthesized these various insights and applied them to religious institutions by suggesting that decentralized religious institutions, characterized by local monitoring sanctioning, and decision-making, encourage individuals to contribute more to the religious group,” said Hale. “This further fosters their dependence on it, and in the process the religious institution creates an organizational network than can be applied to political activism.”

According to Hale, there have been many studies on the decentralization by the state, but few on how political behavior is impacted by the decentralization of non-state institutions, such as religious organizations.

“The mentorship I received from my dissertation committee (Warner, Hechter, David Siroky and Magda Hinojosa) was invaluable both for helping to pull this project together and for developing the professional skills to find some measure of success in the profession,” Hale said.

Hale is finishing draft versions of each of his chapters. The next step will be to have several experts in the field read over portions of his work to provide insights and suggestions. He is hopeful that the work prompts future investigations into these topics.