Professor of Religious and Secular Studies, Lancaster University

I have developed a spatial methodology for contextualising religion, examining its engagement with other social and cultural institutions and issues, and for "breaking open the secular". I have used it to examine religious and secular beliefs and values in diverse locations. I am currently a Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellow researching the role of ideologies, beliefs and commitments in people's motivations and justifications for violent and non-violent action at times of risk and uncertainty. My research interests include the theorization of space and place; the interrogation of religious and political spaces; spatial metaphors in religious and political discourse; the relationship between religion and non-religion; the 'secular sacred'; media representations of religion; and religion and its intersections with migration, diasporas, diversity and ethnicity.

I teach on the first-year module 'Religions in the Modern World' (Introduction and Hinduism). In recent years I have taught an MA module on 'Interrogating Political and Religious Spaces', and modules on religions in modern Britain, religion and media, religious mapping, and religion and society (research process and methods).

I am particularly interested in how religion, the secular and post-secular are constructed and represented in public discourse, in what separates them and what they have in common. In recent articles I have identified some theoretical and methodological resources for breaking open the secular and for exploring the boundary between religion and non-religion. I have discussed the capacity of the concept of the 'sacred' to operate across this boundary with reference to those deeply-held beliefs and values that are non-negotiable.

Where and how religion is located in public life and how religious and other ideological bodies negotiate space for themselves are matters of broad public as well as academic concern. I have contributed to recent discussions about religious identities in superdiverse Britain. Read, listen and watch the Faith Debates organised by the 'Religion and Society' Programme in partnership with the think tank, Theos.

Global Uncertainties: ideologies, beliefs and commitments
This project focuses on the 'The role of ideology, belief and commitment in motivations, justifications and catalysts for action in the face of uncertainty. It asks how they are employed in decision-making and subsequent public actions, both violent and nonviolent and, building on the work of Matthew Francis (Senior Research Associate on the project) considers the relationships between various types and levels of ideology, belief and commitment and the transition to such actions. We work closely with other researchers and stakeholders to model their role and to engage it with academic and public debates on motivations for terrorism, cyber crime, financial risk, regional instability etc.

Experience

  • –present
    Professor of Philosophy, Lancaster University