Prof. Dr. Axel Schäfer

Univ-Prof. Dr., Chair of American History

I joined the Obama Institute in 2015 as Professor of U.S. History. Prior to coming to Mainz I was Professor of American History and Director of the David Bruce Centre for American Studies at Keele University in the UK. I hold a M.A. degree from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. My research focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century political, intellectual, and cultural history, with a particular emphasis on religion and politics, transnational social thought and policies, and migration and consumer capitalism. I have written three monographs: Piety and Public Funding: Evangelicals and the State in Modern America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012)explores how the expansion of federal funding for faith-based foreign aid, health care, educational, and social welfare providers after World War II contributed to the resurgence of conservative Protestantism in the US in recent decades. The book was selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2014. Countercultural Conservatives: American Evangelicalism from the Postwar Revival to the New Christian Right (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011) traces the evolution of the diffuse and pluralistic evangelical movement into the modern Christian Right. And American Progressives and German Social Reform, 1875-1920: Social Ethics, Moral Control, and the Regulatory State in a Transatlantic Context (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000) charts how German social thought and reform shaped the profound intellectual sea change that engulfed the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. My most recent book publication is a co-edited volume titled Global Faith, Worldly Power: Evangelical Internationalism and U.S. Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 2022). The book applies an international perspective to the history of U.S. evangelicalism that radically changes how we understand its development and influence, and also of globalizing religion more broadly.

Current Research

In my current research I examine the relationship between immigration, consumer capitalism, and welfare state-building in the twentieth-century U.S. My focus is on a range of social scientists, civic reformers, bureaucrats, immigrant activists, trade unionists and other public figures who shaped the politics of mass consumption and the modern welfare state on the basis of their analysis of the “immigration problem.” In particular, the project explores the tools and methods of categorizing immigrants as part of the construction of new consumer subjectivities. In examining the classifications and social taxonomies underlying public policy formation, the project highlights the mutual construction of migration issues, consumer society, and social policy. This research is part of the Sonderforschungsbereich SFB 1482 „Humandifferenzierung.“


My main teaching fields are:

  • Twentieth Century U.S. Political and Cultural History
  • Nineteenth and Twentieth Century U.S. Intellectual History
  • Religion and Politics in the United States
  • History of the American West
  • Environmental History
  • History of U.S. Social Policy
  • Transatlantic Social Thought and Reform

In my teaching I approach American Studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. In many of my courses I explore the intersection of politics and culture, combining, for example, analyses of the myth of the West with explorations of the region’s history; cultural images of poverty and the making of social policy; religious imagery and political mobilization; and social ideas and social movements. I have extensive experience teaching on both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in a number of different countries.


Prof. Dr. Axel Schäfer
Philosophicum II
Jakob-Welder-Weg 20
Room 02.211

Phone: +49-6131-39-26767

Office hours during semester break:

2 August, 17:00–18:00
16 August, 17:00–18:00
30 August, 17:00–18:00

I will be away in September due to research travel and conference assignments.

Please contact Anette Vollrath for an appointment.