hero image
Sophie Bjork-James - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Sophie Bjork-James Sophie Bjork-James

Assistant Professor of the Practice in Anthropology | Vanderbilt University


Expert on the U.S.-based religious right and the white nationalist movement, particularly online communities.






Vanderbilt expert can explain modern white nationalism in the U.S.



Sophie Bjork-James has engaged in long-term research on both the U.S.-based Religious Right and the white nationalist movement. She is working on a book manuscript which explores the importance of the family in the white evangelical tradition. Her work has appeared on the NBC Nightly News, NPR’s All Things Considered, BBC Radio 4’s Today, and in the New York Times.

Areas of Expertise (9)

Conservative Christianity


White Nationalism

Reproductive Politics

Race and Racism


Hate Crimes

Feminism & Gender Studies


Accomplishments (2)

Jack Shand Research Award (professional)

2015-2017, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion

Wenner-Gren Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Award (professional)


Education (3)

City University of New York: Ph.D., Anthropology 2013

University of Toronto: M.Ed., Sociology and Equity Studies in Education 2005

Western Washington University: B.A., Race, Class, and Environmental Politics 2000

Selected Media Appearances (7)

Family outraged after a Universal character made 'OK' symbol on 6-year-old's shoulder

USA Today  


Tiffiney Zinger said it was painful telling her daughter she couldn't use a family vacation photo for her second grade class project – the image was marred by what appeared to be a symbol of hate. The photo shows the 6-year-old girl, who is biracial and has autism, posing with an actor dressed as the movie character Gru from "Despicable Me" during a Universal Orlando breakfast event attended by the Zinger family in March. The character formed an upside-down "OK" symbol with his fingers, recognized by some as a hate symbol, on the girl's shoulder, according to a photo and video reviewed by USA TODAY.

view more

White Supremacists Want a Dirty Bomb

Foreign Policy  online


Another challenge posed by an RDD is that both the New York Stock Exchange and the U.S. government are centralized geographically and institutionally. According to a 2018 study by the Sandia National Laboratories—one of three National Nuclear Security Administration research laboratories—the economic impact of an RDD released on New York City could cause up to $30 billion in economic damage over 10 years from business disruption, decontamination, health problems, and a loss of tourism. “The goal of the white nationalist movement is to disrupt the current society in enough of a way to inspire other people to pick up arms against the government,” Assistant Anthropology Professor at Vanderbilt University with a specialization in white nationalism, Dr. Sophie Bjork-James told FP.

view more

Notre Dame Cathedral fire spurs Islamophobic conspiracy theories on social media

NBCNews.com  online


As firefighters worked to contain the fire that ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, Twitter and YouTube struggled to take down conspiracy theories being pushed by both anonymous accounts and verified white nationalists who spread Islamophobic theories about the disaster.

view more

White nationalist movement spreads, pushing lone-wolf attacks

Richmond News  online


The massacre of Muslims at New Zealand mosques on Friday demonstrated the global reach of a white nationalist movement that preaches an imagined "European" ideal, rejects immigration and shares often vicious threats over the internet.

view more


Pacific Standard  online


When actor Jussie Smollett reported a racist and homophobic attack to the Chicago Police Department last month, he appeared to be one of an estimated 250,000 people targeted in hate crimes every year in the United States—although not all of them experience the level of violence Smollett described.

view more

Far-Right Internet Groups Listen for Trump’s Approval, and Often Hear It

New York Times  online


On Wednesday, minutes after President Trump posted an incendiary campaign ad falsely accusing Democrats of flooding the country with murderous illegal immigrants, virulent racists on an online message board erupted in celebration.

view more

Idaho lawmaker Heather Scott defends white nationalists via Facebook

Idaho State Journal  online


North Idaho state Rep. Heather Scott, in a Facebook post on Sunday, defended white nationalists in the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, a day earlier.

view more

Selected Event Appearances (5)

The Alt-Right and the Legacy of Racism in the US

Outside the Box Series  Nashville Public Library

Gender and nation in US Evangelicalism

Religious Studies Colloquium  Middle Tennessee State University

Understanding the Alt-Right

Government Accountability Office  Chicago

The Alt-Right in US History

The Poynter Smart Conference  Vanderbilt, Poynter Institute

Where do we go from here? Racism, Populism, Fascism and the Future of the Hard Right

Center for Place, Culture, and Politics  City University of New York

Selected Articles (3)

Training the Porous Body: Evangelicals and the Ex‐Gay Movement American Anthropologist

Sophie Bjork‐James

2018 In this article, I examine how US evangelical opposition to LGBT rights stems from a unique understanding of sexuality and the person. As my respondents explained to me in over sixteen months of field research, evangelical rejection of LGBT individuals and practices is rooted not simply in prejudice but also in a culturally specific notion of personhood that requires Christian bodies to orient themselves to the divine.

view more

When White Nationalism Became Popular Anthropology News

Sophie Bjork‐James, Jeff Maskovsky

2017 On November 12th, 2016 TheDailyStormer. com, a neo-Nazi website with a monthly viewership of over two million lead with the headline,“The Swastika Reigns in Germany! Trump reigns in America!” After the election a popular thread on the white nationalist website Stormfront. org, with over 300,000 members, carried a discussion thread about Trump’s victory lled with congratulatory posts and happy-face emojis clinking beer mugs.“The Don, is president!” one person wrote.

view more

Feminist Ethnography in Cyberspace: Imagining Families in the Cloud Sex Roles

Sophie Bjork-James

2015 This article explores the relevance of the ethnographic study of the Internet for feminist scholars interested in families. The online world is an emerging field site for feminist scholars investigating spousal, parental, and kin relations, one that opens up new arenas of study but also requires novel methodological approaches. The proliferation of cyber-communities and computer-mediated communication has radically altered how we live, communicate, and gather, share, and produce knowledge.

view more