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Dr. Seth Abrutyn

seth abrutyn


Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
University of Memphis
Clement Hall, Room 305
Memphis TN 38152

Phone: (901) 678-3031
Fax: (901) 678-2525



Dr. Seth Abrutyn is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California-Riverside in 2009 and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute for Research on World-Systems at UC Riverside from 2009 to the spring of 2011. His areas of interest include General Sociological Theory and Human Social Institutions. In particular, he has two current research streams. The first is focused on the social psychological and emotional dynamics of suicide and its contagion, while the second focuses on the evolution and historical dynamics of religion.

In terms of the first stream of research, Dr. Abrutyn and his colleague Dr. Anna Mueller have recently begun a study collecting qualitative data on suicide. In particular, the study focuses on how people cope with a friend or family member’s suicidal thoughts and/or behavior; the role emotions and other social psychological factors play in this process; and, how suicidal thoughts and behavior spread from one person to another. Their research has been published in the American Sociological Review, Sociological Forum, Sociological Perspectives, Sociological Theory, and the American Journal of Public Health.

Dr. Abrutyn has also been focusing on how and when institutions like religion or law become relatively autonomous from other institutional spheres. Similar to his interest in suicide, this work considers the role that social psychological and emotional dynamics play in the evolution of religions like Judaism. General theoretical and empirical work can be read in Sociological Theory, American Journal of Cultural Sociology, and Sociological Perspectives. In addition, he recently had a book, Revisiting Institutionalism in Sociology published with Routledge.

Selected Publications

Abrutyn, Seth. Forthcoming. “Pollution-Purification Rituals, Cultural Memory, and Religious Evolution: How Collective Trauma Shaped Ancient Israel.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology

Abrutyn, Seth, and Anna S. Mueller. Forthcoming. "The Socioemotional Foundations of Suicide: A Microsociological View of Durkheim's Suicide." Sociological Theory.

Abrutyn, Seth, and Anna S. Mueller. 2014. "Are Suicidal Behaviors Contagious? Using Longitudinal Data to Examine Suicide Suggestion." American Sociological Review 79(2):211-27.

Abrutyn, Seth and Anna S. Mueller. 2014. “Reconsidering Durkheim’s Assessment of Tarde: Formalizing a Tardian Theory of Imitation, Contagion, and Suicide Suggestion.” Sociological Forum. 29(3):698-719.

Abrutyn, Seth. 2014. "Religious Autonomy and Religious Entrepreneurship: An Evolutionary-Institutionalist’s Take on the Axial Age." Comparative Sociology 13(2):105-34. .

Abrutyn, Seth. 2013. Revisiting Institutionalism in Sociology: Putting the “Institution” Back in Institutional Analysis. New York: Routledge.

Abrutyn, Seth. 2013. “Reconceptualizing Religious Evolution: Toward a General Theory of Macro-Institutional Change.” Social Evolution and History 12(2):5-36.

Abrutyn, Seth and Jonathan H. Turner. 2011. "The Old Institutionalism Meets the New Institutionalism." Sociological Perspectives 54(3):283-306.

Abrutyn, Seth and Kirk Lawrence. 2010. "From Chiefdom to State: Toward an Integrative Theory of the Evolution of Polity.” Sociological Perspectives 53(3):419-42.

Abrutyn, Seth. 2009. "Toward a General Theory of Institutional Autonomy." Sociological Theory 27(4):449-65.
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Last Updated: 12/4/14