John C. Torpey’s interests lie broadly in the area of comparative historical sociology. He is the author or editor of several books, most recently Legal Integration of Islam: A Transatlantic Comparison (2013), coauthored with Christian Joppke, and The Post-Secular in Question: Religion in Contemporary Society (2012), coedited with Philip S. Gorski, David Kyuman Kim, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen. His Making Whole What Has Been Smashed: On Reparations Politics (2006) discusses the concept of reparations and uses of the past in contemporary politics.
Torpey has worked extensively on modern German society and history, and his book Intellectuals, Socialism, and Dissent: The East German Opposition and Its Legacy (1995) is considered important in the field for the light it sheds on civil rights movements and intellectual activism under communist regimes. His social history of passports, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State (2000), has been widely influential for its discussion of the role of identity documents in the rise of modern states and their control over the movements of citizens and outsiders. His articles have appeared in Theory and Society, Journal of Modern History, Genèses: Sciences sociales et histoire, Journal of Human Rights, Dissent, Contexts, openDemocracy, Frankfurter Rundschau, the Nation, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Torpey, who received his B.A. in political science from Amherst College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, previously taught at the University of British Columbia, where he also served as interim director of the Institute for European Studies, and at the University of California, Irvine.