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Dr Patrick McKearney

Dr Patrick McKearney

Research Associate, Max Planck - Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change


I studied for a BA and an MPhil in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Cambridge, before I made the switch to the Social Anthropology department for my PhD. My doctoral research focused on L'Arche, a renowned, international federation of religious communities for people with learning disabilities. 

I conducted 15 months of ethnographic research on a L'Arche community in the UK that receives government funding to provide care for adults with moderate to severe cognitive impairments. Unlike other care organisations in Britain, the carers and the cared for in L'Arche typically live together in large shared houses, aiming to create a religious community around those with disabilities. My dissertation is in the process of becoming 'Care of the Soul', a book that explores the implications of L’Arche’s attempt to push caring relationships beyond the contractual for our thinking about subjectivity, care, and ethics. 

After working as a Teaching Associate in Social Anthropology for the last couple of years, I am now taking up a position as a Research Associate at the Department's Max Planck Cambridge Centre for the Study of Ethics, Human Economy, and Social Change. My new research explores how people with intellectual disabilities fare in situations of social change and economic development, especially when receiving education and care from Christian NGOs like L'Arche in countries where state welfare is scarce.

Research Interests

  • Anthropology of Ethics and Morality
    • Moral Agency
    • Subjectivity and Cognition
    • Responsibility
  • Anthropology of Religion
    • Theology and Anthropology
    • Anthropology of Christianity
    • Ritual
  • Anthropology of Care and Disability
    • Cognitive Difference
    • Intellectual and Learning Disability
    • Dependence
    • Welfare



  • 3rd-year BA in Social Anthropology: Thought, Belief, and Ethics
    • Moral Agency
    • Ethical Responsibility
    • Care and Subjectivity
  • 3rd-year BA in Social Anthropology: Political Economy and Social Transformations
    • The Economics and Politics of Care
  • 2nd-year BA in Social Anthropology: Anthropology Theory and Methods
    • Christianity, Anthropology, and Personhood
    • Christianity, Conversion, and Modernity


  • MPhil in Social Anthropology
    • The Anthropology of Religion
    • Research Methods
    • Academic Writing
  • 3rd-year BA in Theology and Religious Studies
    • Christianity and the Bioethics of Reproduction


  • MPhil in Social Anthropology
    • Systems of Power and Knowledge
    • Production and Reproduction
  • 3rd-year BA in Social Anthropology
    • Advanced Social Anthropology: Thought, Belief, and Ethics
  • 2nd-year BA in Social Anthropology
    • Comparative Social Analysis
    • Anthropological Theory and Methods
    • Foundations of Social Anthropology: Politics and Religion
  • 1st-year BA in Social Anthropology
    • Introduction to Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective
  • 1st-year BA in Theology and Religious Studies
    • Understanding Contemporary Religion

Key Publications

  • McKearney, P & T. Zoanni (forthcoming, 2018). For an Anthropology of Cognitive Disability. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. 36(1).
  • McKearney, P. (forthcoming, 2018). The Varieties of Disabled Agency: Moral Worth at the Margins of Cognitive Subjectivity. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. 36(1).
  • McKearney, P. (2017). L'Arche, Learning Disability, and Domestic Citizenship: Dependent Political Belonging in a Contemporary British City. City & Society29(2), 260-280.
  • McKearney, P. (2016). The Genre of Judgment. Journal of Religious Ethics44(3), 544-573.

Under Review

  • McKearney, P. Turning Everything Upside Down: Using Theology to Solve an Ethnographic Puzzle in L’Arche. Ethnos.
  • McKearney, P. ‘Everyday Ethics’ in Lamb and Williams (eds.), Everyday Ethics: Moral Theology Meets Anthropology and the Social Sciences. Georgetown University Press.