Valentina Cantori

I am a cultural and political sociologist who is passionate about the study of civic inclusion, religion, togetherness, and issues of representation in U.S. public life.
3 Results

“Trajectories of Public Islam: Public Religious Expressions among American Muslim Advocates” forthcoming in Social Problems

*Winner of the 2024 SSSR Student Paper Award


In American mainstream cultural discourse, Islam is often constructed as undemocratic, violent, and un-American. How do American Muslim advocates react to these tarnished representations of their religion? This paper examines the ways in which Muslim advocates construct public discourse around Islam by exploring the possibilities for and recognizing the constraints on their public religious expressions in U.S. civic life as advocates navigate cultural templates infused with de-sacralized Christian meanings. Based on participant observation in two Muslim advocacy organizations, the article demonstrates that advocates map Islam differently depending on whether the imagined audience of their public discourse is other Muslims or non-Muslims. When advocates imagine addressing non-Muslims, the public discourse of both groups similarly emphasizes Islamic compatibility of Muslim with American values. Among both groups, there is a process of filtering certain religious expressions for more expansive social maps that uncovers the unequal power dynamics shaping trajectories of public religion in civic life for one of the most stigmatized ethno-religious groups in the U.S. today. This paper contributes to expanding our understanding of how civic culture enables and constrains historically marginalized groups’ attempts at redefining belonging.


2022 – Inclusive and Included? Practices of Civic Inclusivity of American Muslims in Los Angeles

American Sociological Association, 2023 Annual Meeting, Los Angeles

Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review 83(2): 145-178,

*Winner of the 2022 Student Paper Award, American Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Section. 

* 2022 Honorable Mention for Outstanding Student Paper, American Sociological Association Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity Section. 

*Winner of the 2022 Phi Kappa Phi Student Recognition Award. 



How do American Muslims practice inclusivity and bridge religious differences in U.S. civic life? Sociological research on bridging focuses mostly on bridging efforts on the part of majority groups, leaving unanswered the timely question of if and how inclusivity is practiced by minority groups, particularly religious minorities, in U.S. civic spaces. Drawing on participant observation among two Muslim groups in Los Angeles, this paper identifies two practices of inclusivity that participants adopt to bridge religious difference: the interreligious heritage practice and the shared ethics practice. Both practices simultaneously draw and diffuse group boundaries, emphasize sameness, albeit using different sets of religious meanings, and are grounded in an understanding of civic spaces as implicitly exclusionary of minorities. I find that these practices can create tension points in the pursuit of mutual understanding and create textures of meanings that operate differently depending on the situation and the participants in the interaction.


2021 – Civic Engagement as Religious Duty among American Muslims: Between ‘Muslim Charity’ and ‘Collective Goodness’ in a Muslim Food Pantry

Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 41(4): 643-657.


How do American Muslims make sense of their engagement in U.S. civic spaces? Research has mostly focused on determining whether the level of civic engagement of American Muslims has increased or decreased following 9/11. But we know little about how American Muslims participate in U.S. civic spaces and which kinds of meanings are used to make sense of their civic participation. Drawing on participant observation in a Muslim food pantry, this article identifies two different styles of civic engagement in service provision, the “Muslim charity” and the “Collective goodness” style. Both these styles envision civic engagement as a religious duty but interpret it differently. The Collective goodness construes civic engagement as a religious duty to be performed showing group pride. The Muslim charity style connects civic engagement with individual humbleness, instead. I show how these different styles of American Muslims’ civic engagement produce meaningful contradictions and I gauge their potential effects on defusing of anti-Muslim sentiments.