Category Archives: Memorials

In Memoriam: William Swatos

William (Bill) Swatos was the editor of the U.S. journal Sociological Analysis (now Sociology of Religion) and the long-time Executive Officer of the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR).  He was active in the SISR-ISSR and was the official liaison between the ASR and the ISA Research Committee 22 on the sociology of religion.

He died yesterday from complications of COVID-19. 

Here is his official obituary:

William H. Swatos, Jr. 74, of Galva, IL, died in GMC Medical Center, Sterling, IL on November 9, 2020 due to complications of COVID-19.

A native of West Milford, NJ, he graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY, and the University of Kentucky. He graduated from the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Lexington and was ordained a priest while serving at the Church of the Transfiguration in Lawrenceburg, KY. He served at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Silvis, IL from 1980-1993. He was a resident of Galva, IL until recently moving to a care facility.

His academic career included teaching sociology at King College (Bristol, TN), Augustana College (Rock Island, IL), and Baylor University (Waco, TX). As a Fulbright Scholar in 1981, he travelled to Iceland to teach and study Icelandic religion. He was a noted author/editor of over 20 textbooks exploring topics in the sociology of religion. He served as Executive Officer of the Association for the Sociology of Religion from 1997-2012, and as Managing Editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion at Baylor University.

He is survived by sons Eric (Elizabeth) Swatos of Prophetstown and Giles Swatos of Tampa, FL, and grandchildren Arthur, Lillian, Claire, and Stephen. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the Alzheimer’s Association,

Downloadable Memoir about David Martin

Jim Beckford and Grace Davie have written a memoir for David Martin, which is now available for download on the BA website at:

The download box is on the upper left-hand side of the page.
Copyright remains with the British Academy, but there is no obstacle to sharing the link widely.

Studies in Honor of Professor Saba Mahmood

Rethinking Politics and Religion: Studies in Honor of Professor Saba Mahmood

                                               Special issue of Sociology of Islam

On the sad news of the passing of Saba Mahmood, the editorial board of the journal Sociology of Islam has decided to organize a special issue to honor the work and legacy of our distinguished colleague for the study of global politics and religion.

Saba Mahmood’s anthropological work shifted debates on secularism and religion, gender and politics, the rights of religious minorities, and the impact of colonialism in the Middle East. Her conceptual engagement with these pertinent social and political issues, however, has opened up broader questions about the politics of religious difference in a secular age beyond the Middle East and Muslim majority countries. This special issue of Sociology of Islam intends to bring to the fore the scope of these contributions in order to assess the cross-disciplinary and transregional magnitude of her work. The editorial board calls for papers on the following and related subjects in the work of Saba Mahmood:

–          Agency and submission;

–          Body/Embodiment;

–          Citizenship;

–          Ethics;

–          Feminist Theory;

–          Gender;

–          Hermeneutics;

–          Law and the State;

–          Postcolonialism/Postcoloniality;

–          Religious freedom;

–          Religious difference;

–          Secularism/Secularity;

–          Sovereignty;

–          Subject formation;

–          The minority condition.

If you are interested in contributing to this special issue, please send a 500-word abstract to Sultan Doughan ( and Jean-Michel Landry ( by 30 April 2018. We acknowledge receipt of all emails and will reply to all. If you do not receive a reply, please resend your abstract. Please include the following in your email:

–          Author name;

–          Affiliation;

–          email address;

–          abstract in Word format;

–          a short CV.

Acceptance notices will be sent by 15 May 2018. Full articles are due 30 September 2018. The special issue will come out in early 2019 (2019/2). All articles must follow the guidelines provided in the attachment to this email.

In Memorium: Martin Riesebrodt

Martin Riesebrodt, sociologist of religion, 1948-2014
By Susie Allen
UChicago News

December 10, 2014

As a scholar, Martin Riesebrodt brought a grounded and incisive approach to the sociology of religion. As a mentor, he pushed his graduate students to think deeply and find their own voices. As a colleague, he was always generous with his time and dry, witty insights.

Riesebrodt, professor emeritus of the sociology of religion in the Divinity School and Department of Sociology, died Dec. 6 of cancer in Berlin. He was 66.

“Martin Riesebrodt was a marvelous scholar and human being; his work on comparative fundamentalisms and on definitions of religion and their social mechanisms will stand the test of time for their cogency, sanity and critical bite,” said Margaret M. Mitchell, the Shailer Mathews Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and dean of the Divinity School. “His death is a great loss to us at the University and to the academy.”

Colleagues say Riesebrodt’s work offered an important counterpoint to religious studies scholarship that de-emphasized the value of comparing different traditions. Riesebrodt, by contrast, believed that looking across many religions and the behavior of their practitioners yielded deeper, more meaningful discoveries.

In Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and Iran (University of California Press, 1993; German original, 1990), which his colleague Bruce Lincoln calls “the best study of fundamentalism that’s ever been produced,” Riesebrodt argued that American Protestant and Iranian Shi’ite fundamentalism were motivated in part by a desire to reassert patriarchal structures of authority. Riesebrodt took on an even more ambitious project in The Promise of Salvation: A Theory of Religion (University of Chicago Press, 2010; German original, 2007). By looking at why and how religion is practiced—and how religions talk about their own beliefs and the beliefs of other faiths—Riesebrodt sought to define and understand religion as a universal human concept.

Riesebrodt was an internationally recognized expert on the work of the influential German sociologist Max Weber. He was an associate director of the Max Weber Archives and one of the editors of a German critical edition of Weber’s work, Max Weber-Gesamtausgabe. Among his greatest contributions to his field was “the re-assertion of the relevance of the Weberian approach,” explained Andreas Glaeser, professor in sociology. “He re-introduced a generation of [American] scholars to Max Weber and the importance of the Weberian perspective for an understanding of religion,” agreed Lincoln, the Caroline E. Haskell Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School.

A supportive mentor, Riesebrodt’s views and social scientific approach sometimes set him apart from other thinkers in the field of religious studies. Yet colleagues say he exuded a quiet confidence in his own work—a confidence he instilled in the students whom he mentored. “He left a cadre of really beautifully trained, very intelligent and energetic students who are continuing the kind of work he tutored them in,” said Lincoln. “I don’t think I’ve seen anybody take better care of his advisees than Martin.”

Loren Lybarger, PhD’02, now a senior fellow at the Martin Marty Center, experienced firsthand the gentle care and high expectations Riesebrodt had for his students. He could be tough-minded, but always in a constructive way, Lybarger recalls: “He was very interested in mentoring me so that I could become a rigorous thinker.” His mentorship extended beyond the academic—Riesebrodt and his wife Brigitte were always willing to open their homes to graduate students, inviting them to social events and reminding them that family life was as important as academic work. Riesebrodt continued to look out for his students well beyond their time at the University, even contacting colleagues at other institutions on their behalf as they searched for jobs. After he had finished his graduate work, Lybarger continued to seek Riesebrodt’s feedback on his works in progress. “He would invariably respond very thoughtfully,” says Lybarger, who helped to organize a conference in 2011 at the Divinity School in Riesebrodt’s honor. “I trusted his intellectual support.”

At the same time, Riesebrodt never tried to force his own ideas onto his graduate students. “What I admired most in his mentoring was the latitude he gave his students, his pushing us to find our own voices, to be the best scholars we could, in our own styles,” remembers Geneviève Zubrzycki, PhD’02, who is now an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.  “He insisted that the best way to get a job was not to mold ourselves to the market’s expectations, whatever the fad of the day might be, but to do what we love and do it brilliantly so that others would be convinced
of the work’s importance.”

Riesebrodt studied anthropology at the University of Heidelberg and sociology at the University of Munich. He taught in his native Germany until he joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1990. In his retirement, he returned to Europe and taught at the Graduate Institute in Geneva where he held the Yves Oltramare Chair for Religion and Politics. Riesebrodt is survived by his wife, artist Brigitte Riesebrodt, and their son, Max, both of Berlin. A University memorial service will be planned for the Winter Quarter.
– See more at:

In Memorium: Ulrich Beck

Renowned sociologist Ulrich Beck has died

3 Jan 2015, Deutsche Welle

Renowned German sociologist Ulrich Beck, famous for creating the term “risk society” (Riskiogesellschaft) has died at the age of 70. His books have been translated into 35 languages.

According to the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday, Beck passed away on January 1 following a heart attack. Ulrich Beck became one of the world’s most famous and most quoted sociologists in recent decades, with his 1986 work Risk Society (Riskiogesellschaft), a bestseller which was translated into 35
languages. His works have focused on the challenges of our times including climate change, terrorism and financial crises  In a 2012 essay for news magazine Der Spiegel, the politically-engaged academic described German Chancellor Angela Merkel as “Merkiavelli” in relation to her dominant role and policies on European-bailouts.

Born in May 1944 in what was then the town of Stolp in Pomerania, now Slupsk in Poland, Beck grew up in Hanover and studied sociology, philosophy, psychology and political science in Munich in the 1960s and 70s. Following short stints at several German universities, Ulrich Beck took up the role of Professor of Sociology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) in 1992. He held several other academic positions, including being visiting professor in the sociology department of the London School of Economics since 1997. Beck was awarded honorary doctorates by at least eight universities and received numerous international awards. His essays have appeared in several German and international media outlets, including Deutsche Welle.