Peggy Levitt sociologist, author and professor


Artifacts and Allegiances:
How Museums Put the Nation and the World on Display 

One out of every seven people in the world today is an international or internal migrant. Our cities are increasingly diverse—people from over 184 countries call London home. So how do we learn to get along? Museums have always played a leading role in creating national citizens. In today’s global world do they also create global citizens who engage actively with diversity next door and across the world? This book, based on fieldwork in Europe, the United States, Asia, and the Middle East, maps where various museums fall on the continuum between cosmopolitanism and nationalism. What do we learn about nationalism by looking at a country’s cultural institutions? What is it about particular cities that help explain where museums fall on the continuum between cosmopolitanism and nationalism?

“Peggy Levitt has written a fascinating story about the various strategies and trajectories museums are taking locally in their struggle for cultural relevance in the twenty-first century. Readers are taken along on her journeys to institutions in three regions of the world and are immersed in reflections about diversity, migration, cosmopolitanism, and nationalism, about global gazes and situated ways of acting. This volume links museum studies and anthropological studies of global diversity, connecting the local to scalar connections with regional, national, and global processes.”

Thomas Fillitz, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna

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Religion on the Edge (Oxford University Press, 2012). The thirteen essays in this volume challenge conventional scholarly approaches to the sociology of religion. They urge readers to look beyond congregational settings, beyond the United States, and to religions other than Christianity, and encourage critical engagement with religion's complex social consequences. Religion on the Edge offers groundbreaking new methodologies and models, bringing to light conceptual lacunae, re-centering what is unsettled by their use, and inviting a significant reordering of long-accepted political and economic hierarchies. The book shows how social scientists across the disciplines can engage with the sociology of religion. By challenging many of its long-standing empirical and analytic tendencies, the contributors to this volume show how their work informs and is informed by debates in other fields and the analytical purchase gained by bringing these many conversations together. Religion on the Edge will be a crucial resource for any scholar seeking to understand our post-modern, post-secular world. 

“These smart, provocative essays are 'critical' in the best sense of that word. They engage seriously with core debates, concepts, and presuppositions in the sociological study of religion and point to new directions that may avoid the problems of current approaches and encompass a wider range of empirical cases. Well-written and insightful, this is a must-read for established scholars of religion and for graduate students as well.”

Penny Edgell, author of Religion and Family in a Changing Society
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God Needs No Passport: Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape (The New Press, 2007) argues that current debates about religion and immigration are based on assumptions that are out-of-sync with our national reality because they fail to grasp the strong connection between changes in immigration and changes in religious life. When we talk about how religion influences American culture and politics, we still really mean Protestantism. When we think about what religion is, where we look for it, and how it works we tend to think in traditional terms. Jewish and Catholic colors are included though they hardly dominate the design. Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are barely visible. Today’s immigrants, however, are remaking the religious landscape by introducing new faith traditions and Asianizing and Latinoizing old ones. They don’t trade in their home-country membership card but challenge the taken-for-granted dichotomy between either/or, United States or homeland, and assimilation vs. multiculturalism by showing it is possible to be several things simultaneously and, in fact, required in a global world. 

God Needs No Passport is a compelling narrative, the best I know, of transnationalism at work. Ordinary immigrants do the work through their everyday practices and particularly through their religions. Levitt threads an elaborate tapestry of family ties, social networks, and transnational religious flows linking Massachusetts towns and the Boston suburbs to Valadares (Brazil), Gujarat (India), Karachi (Pakistan) and Inishowen (Ireland). In the process she challenges all kinds of stereotypes: the methodological premises of social scientists who continue to view societies as territorially bounded boxes, the prejudices of American nativists who view the new immigrants as a threat to our national cohesion and the fears of secular humanists who believe that religion is the source of intolerance and conflict.”

José Casanova, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, The New School

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The Transnational Studies Reader, Sanjeev Khagram and Peggy Levitt, eds. Transnational phenomena and dynamics are the subject of an increasing body of scholarship but are not well understood. More often than not, this research treats specific practices and processes as if they were unconnected to each other. Those who study transnational social movements, migration, or knowledge flows tend to see themselves as part of separate conversations. Yet, to understand the “how, why, and with what consequences” of life across borders, this kind of bridge-building must be done. What’s more, bridge-building is just a first step. Understanding the world as a transnational space requires rethinking basic epistemology and ontology, revisiting history, and inventing new methodological and conceptual tools to adequately capture the complexity of multi-sited and multi-layered experience.

"All of the social and human sciences have been transformed by transnational scholarship. This has yielded new perspectives on issues from migration to religion to the role of corporations. And it has made it imperative for students and scholars to become familiar with work from several disciplines. Professors Khagram and Levitt have made a valuable contribution by bringing together so many informative and influential texts and helping readers gain an overview of these exciting lines of work.”

Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research Council

“Drawing on sociology, anthropology, economics, and political science, this book shows conclusively that good theory demands attention to transnational perspectives. Through articles on social phenomena as diverse as capitalism, religion, class, and art, the book proves that this approach is essential to understanding our increasingly transnational world.”

Sally Engle Merry, New York University, USA

“Few subjects are as critical in world affairs as how the forces of integration are smacking into reassertions of the particular. This book sheds considerable light on this intersection, and helps to illuminate core dilemmas of policy and cultural cohabitation on our small planet today.”

John G. Ruggie, Harvard University, USA

The selections in the Transnational Studies Reader lay the intellectual groundwork for this work. They examine the forms and consequences of different kinds of transnational activities and collectivities in a variety of social arenas. They illustrate, albeit sometimes incompletely, how a transnational gaze brings to light relationships and dynamics that are obscured when we take the nation-state for granted.

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The Changing Face of Home, Peggy Levitt and Mary C. Waters, eds. The children of immigrants account for the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population under 18 years old—one out of every five children in the United States. Will this generation of immigrant children follow the path of earlier waves of immigrants and gradually assimilate into mainstream American life, or does the global nature of the contemporary world mean that their trajectory will be fundamentally different? The Changing Face of Home is the first book to examine the extent to which the children of immigrants engage in transnational practices. It presents an important first round of research and dialogue on the activities and identities of the second generation vis-a-vis their ancestral homelands, and raises important questions for future research.

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The Transnational Villagers (U.C. Press, 2001) shows how Dominican migrants became integrated into the United States while they continue to invest, vote, and pray in their homeland. It argues that migrants and those who stayed behind, though separated by physical distance, occupy the same social space. Immigrant incorporation and long-term transnational attachments were not antithetical processes but happen simultaneously and mutually influence each other. This book also introduces the concept “social remittances” which underscores that not just economic but social and cultural exchanges (ideas, practices, social capital, and identities) result from migration and are an important part of the migration-development equation. 

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