Brent Nelsen headshot, a man with white hair and a white mustache

Brent Nelsen

Jane Fishburne Hipp Professor, Politics and International Affairs; Interim Director, The Tocqueville Center

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Brent F. Nelsen is Jane Fishburne Hipp Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Furman University where he has taught since 1990. He received his BA from Wheaton College (IL) and his MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His teaching and scholarship focus on Europe and the European Union with an emphasis on religion and politics. His most recent book, co-authored with James L. Guth, is titled, Religion and the Struggle for European Union: Confessional Culture and the Limits of Integration (Georgetown University Press).

Recently, Dr. Nelsen was appointed Interim Director of the Tocqueville Center for the Study of Democracy and Society.

In 2010 Dr. Nelsen ran unsuccessfully for State Superintendent of Education. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley later appointed him chair of the Educational Television Commission. She appointed him to a second six-year term in 2014. He resigned from the Commission in 2019. President Obama nominated him to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board of Directors. His nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August 2013. He completed his term in 2016.

Dr. Nelsen married his wife Lori in 1981. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Finally, Dr. Nelsen loves to read, run, hike, bike, garden—and take students on travel-study tours to all of his favorite places in Europe!

Honors & Awards

  • 2023 Awarded Jane Fishburne Hipp Professorship
  • 1992 Awarded a Knight Mini-Sabbatical for Fall Term 1992 from Furman University
  • 1987 Awarded a Fulbright Grant for study in Oslo, Norway


  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • B.A., Wheaton College

Research Interests

Nelsen’s teaching and scholarship focus on Europe and the European Union, but he has also pursued an interest in petroleum policy in the North Sea.

For over two decades, Nelsen has been studying the relationship between religion and politics in Europe, often with his co-author and Furman colleague, Jim Guth. He has published several journal articles and a book on how religion shapes the identities and attitudes of Europeans toward the EU. Recently, Nelsen has turned his attention to the rise of populist parties in Europe.

In addition, Nelsen is returning to the study of offshore oil and gas policy in Britain and Norway after a 30 year hiatus. His new book on the subject is due out shortly.



  • Religion and the Struggle for European Union: Confessional Culture and the Limits of Integration, co-authored with James. L. Guth (Georgetown University Press, 2015)
  • The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration, eds. Brent F. Nelsen and Alexander C-G. Stubb (Boulder, Col.: Lynne Rienner Publishers). First Edition, 1994; Second Edition, 1998; Third Edition, 2003; Fourth Edition, 2014
  • Norway and the European Community: The Political Economy of Integration, ed. Brent F. Nelsen (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993)
  • The State Offshore: Petroleum, Politics, and State Intervention on the British and Norwegian Continental Shelves (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991)

Refereed Articles

  • “Religion and Support for the ‘Trump Doctrine’,” with James L. Guth, in Paulina Napierala (ed.), Religion and American Politics: Domestic and International Contexts (Berlin: Peter Lang Verlag, 2023)
  • “Confessional Cultures and European Identity: Religion, Ideology, and Economics,” with James L. Guth, Religions 14(2)(2023):
  • “Explaining Green Party Support in the 2019 European Parliamentary Elections: A Test of Four Hypotheses,” with Samantha Whitely and James L. Guth, Society (Accepted 4 February 2023):
  • “Protestantism and Europe,” with James L. Guth, in Lucian Leustean and Grace Davie, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Europe (Oxford University Press, 2021), 458-479
  • “Losing Faith: Religion and Attitudes toward the European Union in Uncertain Times,” with James L. Guth, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 58(4)(2020): 909-924 (published online 31 October 2019)
  • “Party Choice in Europe: Social Cleavages and the Rise of Populist Parties,” with James L. Guth, Party Politics 27(3)(Spring 2021): 453-464, published online 10 June 2019:
  • “Explaining Policy Convergence in Europe: A Research Note,” with Amanda Michalski and James L. Guth, Journal of Political Science, 45 (2017): 75-92
  • “European Union or Kingdom of the Antichrist? Protestant Apocalyptic Narratives and European Unity,” (with James L. Guth), National Identities 19(2)(2017): 251-267 (published online 12 January 2017)
  • “Religion and the Creation of European Identity: The Message of the Flags” (with James L. Guth), The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 14(1)(March 2016): 80-88
  • “Does Religion Still Matter? Religion and Public Attitudes toward Integration in Europe” (with James L. Guth and Brian Highsmith), Politics and Religion, 4(1)(April 2011): 1-26 (published online 1 November 2010)
  • “Religion and Youth Support for the European Union,” with James L. Guth, Journal of Common Market Studies, 41(1)(March 2003): 89-112
  • “Does Religion Matter? Christianity and Public Support for the European Union,” with James L. Guth and Cleveland R. Fraser, European Union Politics, 2(2)(Spring 2001): 191-217
  • “Exploring the Gender Gap: Women, Men, and Public Attitudes toward European Integration,” with James L. Guth, European Union Politics, 1(3)(Fall 2000): 267-91.

Additional Professional Activity

  • President, South Carolina Political Science Association 2009-2010
  • President, Public Opinion and Participation Special Interest Section, European Union Studies Association, 2007-2009
  • President, Christians in Political Science, 2004-06
  • Chair, South Carolina Educational Television Commission, 2011-2019.
  • Board Member, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August 2013; term completed December 2016)