North American religious history, American Catholicism, religious embodiment, and methodological issues surrounding the application of ethnographic methods to historical research and writing.
Her research focuses on the culture of American Catholicism, historical intersections of religion and social reform in the United States, and the construction of gender within American religious traditions. Her first book The New Nuns: Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007) documents the involvement of Catholic women religious in racial justice programs during the civil rights era, exploring how activism in this “racial apostolate” transformed sisters’ ideas about gender and power and influenced the reforms they implemented in their own religious congregations in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. The New Nuns won the 2009 Eric Hoffer Prize in the category of Culture and was a finalist for the Hoffer Grand Prize.
Dr. Koehlinger is currently working on three projects. Her next monograph, Rosaries and Rope Burns: Boxing and Manhood in American Catholicism, 1890-1970 (for Princeton University Press) explores the historical significance of the sport of boxing among American Catholics, particularly boxing's relationship with religious ideas about the redemptive value of physical suffering and blood, and the sport's effect on performances of manhood among particular racial and ethnic groups of Catholics. Dr. Koehlinger also is writing From Charity to Justice, a history of the apostolate of Franciscans in the U.S. for the Academy of American Franciscan History, and she is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of American Catholicism.
Her work has been supported by the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame, and the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion at Yale.
Rosaries and Rope Burns:
Boxing and Manhood in
American Catholicism, 1880-1970
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
(manuscript in preparation)
The New Nuns:
Racial Justice and Religious
Reform in the 1960s
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).
Winner of 2009 Eric Hoffer Prize,
"American Sisters Haven’t Strayed. The Vatican Has." Religion and Politics For Polite Company. July 20, 2012.
“Catholic Distinctiveness and the Challenge of American Denominationalism,” Interpreting Denominational History: Perspectives on the Past, Prospects for the Future, Keith Harper, ed., (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2008).
“Academia and Aggiornamento: the Social Sciences and Postconciliar Reform among American Sisters,” U.S. Catholic Historian 26:4 (Fall 2007).
“‘Are you the White Sisters or the Black Sisters?’: Women Confounding Categories of Race and Gender” in Women and Religion in America: Reimagining the Past, Catherine Brekus, editor. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007).
"'Race Relations Needs the Nun': Sources of Continuity and Change in the Racial Apostolate of the 1960s," U.S. Catholic Historian, 24:4 (Fall 2005), 39-59.
"'Let Us Live for Those Who Love Us': Faith, Family, and the Contours of Manhood among the Knights of Columbus in Late Nineteenth-Century Connecticut," Journal of Social History, 38: 2 (Winter 2004), 455-469.