Research

My research has examined the history of privacy in America, the evolution of decentralized social movements, the role of technology for political mobilization, and European populism.

The bulk of my work focuses on meso-social phenomena: How do recurring interactions contribute to the development of hierarchies and the diffusion of ideas within social movements? How — and with what consequences — do bureaucratic and juridical institutions incorporate new ideas about the role of the state and the limits of state power into their daily practices? How do privacy debates contribute to the transformation of urban space? Situated somewhere between the macrosocial domain of societal change and microsocial shifts in individual behavior, these middle-range environments are often teeming with meaning and significance and help to explain the complex connections between self and society, the stability of the social order, and the possibility of social change.

Historical sociology (which is the bulk of my current work) poses a unique challenge: Because scholars are limited to data that has survived the passage of time, we must think creatively about our use of existing data sources — a process that a historian of ancient Assyria once described to me as “wringing water from a stone”. Thus, I use a considerable range of sources and methods. I have worked with historical census microdata, archival text records, social attitude surveys, legal documents, and newspaper data. I have implemented computational text analyses on large corpora (10+ million documents) of historical text, digitized government reports into time-series datasets, and conducted qualitative archival research. I am proficient in R and, to a lesser degree, Python.