headshot of Ann Swidler

Research Expertise and Interest

religion, culture, Africa, AIDS, political sociology, theory, development, NGOs, public impact research/scholarship, community-engaged research/scholarship, research practice partnership, community-based research partnerships, social justice research

Research Description

Ann Swidler has done influential work on culture, religion, and American society, including the now-classic article, “Culture in Action," the co-authored Habits of the Heart, The Good Society, and Inequality by Design, and the book Talk of Love: How Culture Matters (Chicago 2001). Her most recent book (with Susan Cotts Watkins) is A Fraught Embrace: The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa (Princeton 2017). Her current research examines the dynamics of religious change in Malawi and how networks among religious congregations, chiefs, NGOs, and local officials shape the creation of public goods. Her recent papers include "Ties of Dependence: AIDS and Transactional Sex in Rural Malawi" with Susan Watkins (Studies in Family Planning 2007); "Condom Semiotics: Meaning and Condom Use in Rural Malawi," with Iddo Tavory, (American Sociological Review 2009); "Teach a Man to Fish" (World Development 2009) and "Hearsay Ethnography" (Poetics 2009), both with Susan Watkins; “Outsourcing Social Transformation: Development NGOs as Organizations,” with Susan Watkins and Thomas Hannan (Annual Review of Sociology 2012); “African Affirmations: The Religion of Modernity and the Modernity of Religion.” (International Sociology 2013); “Working Misunderstandings: Donors, Brokers, and Villagers in Africa’s AIDS Industry” with Susan Watkins (Population and Development Review 2013); “Global Institutional Imaginaries” in A. Phillips and C. Reus-Smit, eds., Diversity and its Discontents: Culture and Order in World Politics (Cambridge 2019); and  “Transplanting Institutional Innovation: Comparing the Success of NGOs and Missionary Protestantism in Sub-Saharan Africa” with Marian Burchardt (Theory & Society 2020).

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