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Associate Professor Sociology 742 Oldfather Hall

Curriculum Vitae
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Current Research

The overarching question that drives my research program is: How do religion and sexuality interact and intersect as a politicized set of practices, ideologies, and identities? My research shifts sociological inquiry from a focus on what is socially marginal to what is socially normative and privileged, particularly addressing the relationship between conservative Christianity, heterosexuality, gender, and whiteness. My current research includes projects on evangelical women’s ministries; debates over religious freedom laws; and contemporary debates over pornography. 

In 2019, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Dr. Emily Kazyak (PI) and myself (co-PI) a grant to support a 3-year project on religious exemption laws and minority rights. The issue of whether individuals may be exempt from adhering to nondiscrimination laws owing to religious beliefs is a complex question involving legal institutions as well as individual beliefs. Our mixed-methods study uses quantitative and qualitative analysis of legal data and qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews to understand processes of cultural interpretations at both the institutional and individual level.

In 2017, I was awarded the Distinguished Book Award for the American Sociological Association Section on Religion for my first book, Christians Under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet (2016 University of California Press). It analyzes online Christian sex advice to understand the sometimes contradictory and often surprising ways that some Christians talk about sexual pleasure. 

My research has also been published in academic journals, including Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionSexualitiesSociology Compass, and Socius, and featured in popular outlets including Nebraska Public RadioNewsweek, and Salon.

Student Opportunities

I am seeking graduate students who share my areas of interest as well as students interested in qualitative methodologies studying other substantive topics.        

I am also seeking undergraduate students with strong writing skills and who are interested in gaining experience transcribing and analyzing qualitative data.

Current Teaching

I teach Introduction to Sociology and classes on gender, sexuality, and religion. 

Selected Publications

Kazyak, Emily, Kelsy Burke, and Mathew Stange. “Logics of Freedom: Debating Religious Freedom Laws and Gay and Lesbian Rights.” Socius, (January 2018). doi:10.1177/2378023118760413.

Avishai, Orit, and Kelsy Burke. “God’s Case for Sex.” Contexts 15, no. 4 (November 2016): 30–35. doi:10.1177/1536504216684819.

Burke, Kelsy. Christians under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press (2018).


Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh

Areas of specialization:

  • Sexuality and gender
  • Religion (American Christianity)
  • Race (Critical whiteness)
  • Culture
  • Qualitative Methods