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)
Race and Racism
Feminism & Gender Studies
Jack Shand Research Award (professional)
2015-2017, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
Wenner-Gren Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Award (professional)
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 (10)
Big Tech Moderation Crackdown Gives Parler, Gab A Surge of Users
The surge in user growth for platforms like Parler has slowed down in recent days, as Amazon Web Services suspended services to the website.
QAnon’s ‘Save the Children’ morphs into popular slogan
AP News online
Under the guise of benefiting children, many of the posts seek to lure people into the QAnon conspiracy theory circle and encourage support for Trump, said Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University who studies the religious right and QAnon.
YouTube follows Twitter and Facebook with QAnon crackdown
AP News online
“While this is an important change, for almost three years YouTube was a primary site for the spread of QAnon,” said Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University who studies QAnon. “Without the platform Q would likely remain an obscure conspiracy. For years YouTube provided this radical group an international audience.”
Facebook, Twitter flounder in QAnon crackdown
AP News online
“Their algorithm worked to radicalize people and really gave this conspiracy theory a megaphone with which to expand,” Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University who studies QAnon, said of social platforms. “They are responsible for shutting down that megaphone. And time and time again they are proving unwilling.”
QAnon Linked to at Least 44 Election Candidates in 2020—and Some Could Win
"I don't see QAnon going away any time soon," Sophie Bjork-James, assistant professor of the practice in anthropology at Vanderbilt University, told Newsweek. "Elections are key platforms for conspiracy theories to reach a wider audience, and elected officials who espouse conspiracy theories can have even a greater reach. This can provide a sense of legitimacy to ideas that have no factual basis."
QAnon Popularity Surges During Pandemic As People Stay Home, Go Online
President Donald Trump’s embrace of QAnon and the pandemic has helped propel the conspiracy into the mainstream.
Social media platforms face a reckoning over hate speech
AP News online
Despite optimism from some critics, others said it is not clear if such measures will be enough. For years, racist groups “have successfully used social media to amplify their message and gain new recruits,” said Sophie Bjork-James an anthropology professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in white nationalism, racism and hate crimes.
Family outraged after a Universal character made 'OK' symbol on 6-year-old's shoulder
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.
Notre Dame Cathedral fire spurs Islamophobic conspiracy theories on social media
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.
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.
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 MovementAmerican Anthropologist
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.
When White Nationalism Became PopularAnthropology 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.
Feminist Ethnography in Cyberspace: Imagining Families in the CloudSex Roles
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.