My work as a researcher and anthropologist focuses on religion and ethics, gender and the family, and how new forms of social organization and social movements reorganize social life in times of sociocultural change.
I have a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), under the supervision of Profs. Joel Robbins (now at Cambridge) and Suzanne Brenner, and I currently lecture at MiraCosta College and at UCSD. My dissertation, Wrestling with God: Peer Groups, the “Reformation of Machismo,” and the “Restructuring of Latin American Religion” in San Carlos, Costa Rica, deals with the question of how something as fundamental as gender identity be transformed over time, and how the social movement that is helping to produce this change is restructuring religious life itself in the process. (See abstract here.) The dissertation focuses on the impact of the support group on religious and non-religious social movements, arguing that it is “restructuring religion” (and spiritual community) just as Robert Wuthnow argued in North America, and that the innovations in social change that it has introduced constitute a potentially important source of social transformation akin to how the Methodist class, according to social historians like Thompson and Semmel, propagated a model of voluntary organization that went on to influence the rise of unions and mutual aid organizations. More importantly in the lives of the people in this urbanizing, yet rural part of Northern Costa Rica, support groups like these, modeled on the all-male Alcoholics Anonymous groups common in the region (which have triple their US membership rates), are transforming how men participate in the family and think of what it means to be a man.
My future research will pursue this research into support group culture as an emergent model of spiritual community and spiritual practice by examining the use of support group culture by sufferers of chronic and terminal illnesses. The project, for which I will be submitting an NSF grant, asks how support groups articulate spiritual lives and medical institutions in America and produces new ideas about death, suffering, and the meaning(s) of life.
This website contains links to my CV and syllabi (see the sidebar menu).
For my published scholarship and conference papers, please see my academia.edu webpage at: https://ucsd.academia.edu/WilliamCDawley.