Beau Weston’s Theory Camp tackles the sociology of religion

Beau Weston and studentsVan Winkle Professor of Sociology Beau Weston returned to The Hub, a local coffeehouse he frequents, this summer with six students to discuss two books by American sociologist Philip S. Gorski as part of his Theory Camp.
This program is an annual two-week seminar in which several handpicked students meet every morning to discuss books of Weston’s choosing.

One student, Cameron Beach ’18, found this to be an enriching summer experience to think about new ideas and concepts, especially given the wide variety of interests of the various participants of Theory Camp.
“It is not often that we have the opportunity to spend this much time engaging with a text and critically discussing it with others,” she said.

To Weston, this collaborative learning process allowed him and his students to delve into the works of an author he has previously met. For the last few years, Weston and Gorski have worked together in a research-oriented group on “Human Flourishing and Critical Realism.”

Based on Weston’s interest, Gorski asked him to read the manuscript for The Disciplinary Revolution. Consequently, Weston is named in the book’s acknowledgements.

Weston has long been interested in American civil religion, so when he found out that one of his own colleagues wrote a book on the subject, he thought it would make a great Theory Camp book.

“I had been meaning to read his earlier work, The Disciplinary Revolution, based on my own long research on the Reformed tradition. Putting the two together made a perfect set for camp,” he said.

Students first read The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe and then Gorski’s latest book, American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion from the Puritans to the Present.

Part of the reason that Weston chose these two books is because he had just taught “The Sociology of American Religion” this past spring. “[This] made me particularly interested to pick up the question of American civil religion,” he said.

In fact, half of the students in Theory Camp this summer—Cameron Beach ’18, Daniel Sweat ’18, and Katie Alexander ’19—took “The Sociology of American Religion” this past spring, making it easy for Weston to select which students to invite this year.

Another student, Davis Kinkel ’18, also took one of Weston’s classes, “Social Structure,” this past spring.

Other students in Theory Camp this summer included article author, Adeel Ahmed ’18, and Abby Vansickle ’18, both of whom were recommended to Weston by his colleagues in the religion program.

by Adeel Ahmed ’18
August 10, 2017