Here is a brief overview of my work. Click here for complete academic CV.


My main scholarly interests are in sociology of law and social control, popular culture, and theory.

In the area of law and social control, my work primarily focuses on three themes. First, recent research involves a study of the global diffusion of terrorist anti-police violence. This work extends from my research on the police dimension of counter-terrorism that culminated in my book The Policing of Terrorism (Routledge 2010) and two edited volumes on the sociology and criminology of (counter)terrorism. Second, I research the history and contemporary conditions of international police cooperation. This work culminated in a book, Policing World Society (Oxford University Press 2002), and several research articles. Third, I connect my interests in law and social control with theoretical issues in sociology. In my book Sociology of Law: Visions of a Scholarly Tradition (Cambridge University Press 2008), I analyze the history and systematics of the sociology of law.

Building on these interests, I have edited a 32-chapter The Handbook of Social Control in which leading scholars discuss a broad range of issues and dimensions of social control. In the immediate future, I plan to further develop my work in the area of social control to write a book-length treatise on the sociology of policing.

I also study contemporary issues of popular culture, especially fame, popular music, and cinema, themes which connect with my background in cultural sociology and anthropology. Most recently, I published my book Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame (Palgrave 2017) and several papers on music and fame following a rather famous course I organized (www.gagacourse.net). Relatedly, I also teach and write on other cultural themes, such as the movies of Alfred Hitchcock, music censorship, and the anthropology of Victor Turner.

Much of my research is of a comparative/international and/or historical nature. Additionally, my work is always closely connected with important questions of sociological theory, a specialty I have also explored in its own right, especially concerning discourse theory, sociological systems theory, and structuralism.

See the Books and Articles & Essays pages for related writings.


I teach courses in the areas of law and social control, theory, and popular culture:
  • Undergraduate courses: Sociological Theory; Sociology of Deviant Behavior; Society Through Visual Media; Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame; Sociology of Social Control; Sociology of Law. 
  • Graduate seminars: Advanced Sociological Theory; Classical Scholars; Contemporary Scholars; Scientific Methods and Sociological Inquiry; Theoretical Foundations of Sociology; Criminological Sociology; Sociology of Law and Social Control; Comparative and Historical Sociology. 
See the Teaching Pages for further information.



I was born in Belgium, where I grew up in the village of Stokkem and attended high school at St. Jan Berchmanscollege in Genk. I studied at Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven, receiving degrees in Sociology in 1986 and in Cultural Anthropology in 1987. In 1990, I obtained an MA from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Hull, England. Between 1989 and 1992, I was an assistant in the Criminology program at K.U. Leuven, whereafter I came to the United States and received my PhD in sociology from the University of Colorado in 1996. I have since held academic positions at Kenyon College, Purdue University, and the University of South Carolina, where I have been since 2002.


Ph.D. Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1996.
Dissertation: “Borders of Police Force: Historical Foundations of International Policing Between Germany and the United States.” A revised version was published as my first book, Policing World Society (Oxford University Press 2002).
M.A. Sociology of Developing Societies, University of Hull, England, 1990.
Thesis on “Processual Symbolic Analysis in the Writings of Victor W. Turner". [online as pdf file]
Special Diploma Social and Cultural Anthropology, Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven, Belgium, 1987.
Thesis on the anthropology of space (in Dutch). [online as pdf file]
Licentiate Sociology, Candidate Social Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven, Belgium, 1983, 1986.
Thesis on the sociological concept of anomie (in Dutch). [online as pdf file]

Academic Employment

Professor (since 2010), Associate Professor (2005-2010), Assistant Professor (2002-2005), University of South Carolina, Department of Sociology, Columbia, SC, 2002-present.

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1997-2002.

Visiting Assistant Professor, Kenyon College, Law and Society Program, Gambier, Ohio, 1996-1997.

Graduate employment: Assistant/Instructor, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1992-1996; Assistant, Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven, Belgium, Department of Criminology, 1989-1992.

See Books and online available Articles & Essays pages for publications. Mathieu Deflem