Reader in Anthropology and Religion, Faculty of Divinity
Fellow, Jesus College
My research interests include ethnography, anthropological theory, and the anthropology of religion. These interests fall into three overlapping groups:
1. The history of anthropology and anthropological theory:
I have a long-established interest in Durkheim and Mauss and the Année Sociologique School, and their interactions with the history of British Social Anthropology. I am also interested in more recent sociological and theoretical writing, particularly in France. I have two books on ‘Mauss’ and ‘Magic’ in preparation. This interest in method informs my ethnographic work; it also includes engagement with various forms of psychological theory, including cognitive science approaches to the study of religion.
2. Nationalism and language:
I have worked on the Occitan regionalist movement in Paris, Toulouse and Béarn since the 1970s and recently published The Life of Property. House, Family and Inheritance in Béarn, South West France (2010) (for hyperlink, see bibliography below), which focuses on the enduring social forms controlling the transmission of property. I intend to develop this work in the direction of a study of the Occitan language movement over the twentieth century to the present, focussing on the always-tense relations between militants and linguists on the one hand and speakers of the dialects on the other. This interest in politics and language also shapes my third area of research.
3. Ethnographic and social historical approaches to religion:
A. I am interested in the contextual study of religious life, researching the intellectual, moral, political and other work that religious groups perform in the setting of ordinary life. Religion in English Everyday Life: An Ethnographic Study (1999) contains two studies based on field research, both in Britain, one concerning Comberton, a satellite village near Cambridge, the other Kingswood, a working-class suburb of Bristol.
B. My current work concentrates upon excellent ethnographic and historical case studies which have appeared in recent years on North American and European religious movements. Topics include forms of modern religious life such as Adventism and Spiritualism, the moral and intellectual effects and employments of modern scientific and technological innovations in contemporary religious life, individualism and political aspects of the religious imagination, the forms of rejection and of opposition to contemporary religious ideas, and encounters between psychology and new religious forms. My most recent publication, Of Flying Saucers and Social Scientists: a re-reading of When Prophecy Fails and of Cognitive Dissonance (2013) is a case study which explores these issues. I plan to publish a survey of these materials and the approaches they contain in the near future.