Amy Cooter is a senior lecturer in sociology at Vanderbilt University with research interests pertaining to Race & Ethnicity, Masculinity, Nationalism, and Crime & Deviance.
She is a recognized expert on US domestic militias and related nostalgic groups that are commonly grouped under the terms "right-wing" or "patriot groups," and has been studying them for more than a decade. Unlike the vast majority of nostalgic group researchers, she does not rely solely on online materials or media reports of these groups, but rather observes group members in ethnography and asks them directly about their motives and perceptions through interviews and surveys. She considers public sociology to be an important part of her job, and in addition to consultations with journalists and other academics around the globe, she has also served as an expert consultant on a federal hate crime trial (United States of America vs. Curtis Wayne Allen, Patrick Eugene Stein & Gavin Wayne Wright; Case Number 16-M-6151-GEB).
Areas of Expertise (10)
Nationalism and Identity Politics
Race & Ethnicity
Vanderbilt University: B.A., Sociology and Psychology 2005
University of Michigan: Ph.D., Sociology 2013
• Dissertation: "Americanness, Masculinity, and Whiteness: How Michigan Militia Men Navigate Evolving Social Norms" • Committee: Genevieve Zubrzycki (chair), Alford Young, Kiyoteru Tsutsui, Matthew Countryman • Research supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program 2007-2010
Selected Media Appearances (10)
Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials and followers
Washington Post online
“From the prosecution perspective, it helps to have someone who has been visible, who looks like the militia movement to the general public, regardless of how powerful or meaningful he really was,” said Amy Cooter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt University who studies militant groups. “I think that if you target someone like him, it makes it easier to look like you’re doing something about the morass that we have.”
Why Militias Are So Hard To Stop
But the line between extremist militia and moderate militia is not always clearly defined, and sometimes groups can move along that spectrum, according to Amy Cooter, a militia expert at Vanderbilt University. The majority of militia groups aren’t extremist, she said, but more extreme fringe groups may be able to cultivate greater influence during times of social instability like we saw in 2020.
Idaho Resistance Groups Work To Combat Extremism Seeping Into Mainstream
The Idaho 97 project is one of several anti-extremism groups across the political spectrum that have popped up in the region. Amy Cooter, who studies far-right groups at Vanderbilt University, says one challenge these groups face is recent success by far-right candidates.
Capitol riots: Are US militia groups becoming more active?
Amy quoted by BBC on domestic militia groups.
What is the ‘boogaloo’ and who are the rioters who stormed the Capitol? 5 essential reads
The Conversation online
Amy Cooter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt University who has extensively studied the American militia movement, reports that some far-right groups have adopted what is called “accelerationism,” which she explains as “the idea that inducing chaos, provoking law enforcement, and promoting political tension will hasten the collapse of Western government … making room for them to establish a whites-only country.”
Mix of extremists who stormed Capitol isn’t retreating
Associated Press online
Amy quoted on groups active at the January 6th insurrection.
Nashville Bombing Revives Debate Over Which Acts Get Terrorism Label
I talked about this with extremism researcher Amy Cooter. She teaches at Vanderbilt, actually lives in Nashville. And she says much of the misunderstanding seems to lie in this gap between lofty legal definitions of terrorism and then just the sheer horror of seeing part of your town blown up. "So for me, that kind of captures the tension of terrorism - what it is, is it really about the motive? Is it really about how it's felt or the potential that was with that underlying act or what?"
New warning about extremist groups after alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer
NBC News tv
Some of the 13 people arrested this week in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were involved in two radical militia groups that share a hatred of government and law enforcement.
Wolverine Watchmen, extremist group implicated in Michigan kidnapping plot, trained for ‘civil war’
Washington Post online
Members of other groups describe them as “regulars” at heavily armed demonstrations at the Capitol protesting pandemic restrictions, according to Amy Cooter, a senior lecturer in sociology at Vanderbilt University who has contacts in the community.
Gay men take over Proud Boys hashtag on Twitter 'to reclaim our pride'
USA Today online
The Proud Boys publicly deny supporting white supremacy, but the group has tolerated racism among its ranks and associated with overtly racist figures, said Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University senior lecturer who studies nationalism, race and ethnicity.