Dr. Seth Abrutyn is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. He received his PhD from the University of California-Riverside (2009) in sociology, specializing in theory and organizations/institutions. At the core of his research agenda are two closely related questions: (1) how does the social environment become detrimental to its denizen’s mental, emotional, and social psychological health and (2) how do groups come to create these social environments in the first place? These two questions shape the two strands of work Abrutyn pursues.
His primary focus is on suicide clusters, asking “why” and “how” some places become vulnerable to adolescent suicide while others that share key attributes do not? This project is mixed-method and, currently, comparative. The goal is to rethink not only how sociology theorizes and studies suicide, but to build a more comprehensive theory of suicide for a broader, interdisciplinary audience. In addition to thinking about the social psychology shaping an individual’s decision-making, his work integrates insights drawn from research on emotions, cultural sociology, and organizational sociology. Abrutyn’s research on suicide has received wide recognition for its unique contributions to knowledge, including the Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award from the Section on Medical Sociology of the American Sociological Association as well as best publication awards from the ASA Sections on Sociology of Mental Health, Children & Youth, and Emotions. His work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Sociological Theory to name a few.
His second line of work is historical and evolutionary. He is interested in how institutional spheres, like economy, religion, or law, become distinct physical, temporal, social, and symbolic sites of interaction, exchange, communication, and domination. In particular, the focus turns towards times and/or places in which epoch-making movements have reshaped the social landscape, applying an evolutionary framework for thinking about how and why social selection at the group level occurs. To date, this work has mainly been focused on political entrepreneurship some 5,000 years ago with the rise of the first states and religious entrepreneurship during the first millennium BCE in Israel.