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Department of Social Anthropology



Naomi Richman is a Junior Research Fellow (JRF) in Anthropology at Trinity College. She earned her D.Phil. at the University of Oxford in 2020, which was based on ethnographic research amongst Nigerian Pentecostal Christians. Naomi’s research argues for the decisive role that theology plays in shaping the lives of religious persons, and especially in shaping how they experience their physical bodies, and their sexualities. Her research has also documented the growing popularity of ‘deliverance’ or exorcism practices in contemporary Christianity. Naomi’s work strives to be interdisciplinary, and she has written on the relationship between social scientific and theological systems of knowledge production. She is currently preparing a book manuscript entitled, ‘Sex and the Spirit: God, Sex and Gender in the Deliverance movement’ which will be published by Oxford University Press.

Naomi has also written about ‘gay conversion’ therapies and the use of deliverance as a way to try and change a person’s sexuality, as well as beliefs about same-sex relations in Africa historically. In fact, a connected strand of her research and outreach work investigates types of spiritual abuse, and Naomi provides extended guidance to the Metropolitan Police Service, as well as numerous charitable organisations, on these matters. She is also a member of the National Working Group for Abuse Linked to Witchcraft and Spirit Possession, a strategic multi-agency forum supported by the Department of Education, and one of the founders of the Amber Project, a cross-sector partnership seeking to enhance the response to child abuse in a faith context at a local authority level.

Naomi maintains a keen interest in media and public engagement and has appeared on BBC radio on several occasions to discuss current issues concerning religion and politics. She has recently directed her first documentary short, Rites Undone (29’57”). The film follows the stories of Nigerian victims of sex-trafficking in Italy, and explores the challenges faced by European mental health workers seeking to provide treatment across cultural and religious divides.

Prior to her fellowship in Cambridge, Naomi was a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of History, Classics & Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London, for the Wellcome Trust funded project, ‘Hidden Persuaders: Brainwashing, culture, clinical knowledge and the Cold War human sciences’.


Anthropology of Christianity; gender and sexuality studies; philosophy of the body and phenomenology; witchcraft and spirit possession; demonology; Born again and Pentecostal Christianity; World Christianity; spiritual abuse; secularism and new religious movements; race, decolonisation and Black theology; transcultural psychiatry; health and healing.


Research articles and book chapters

Forthcoming. ‘Deliverance Christianity’. In the Routledge Handbook of Megachurch Studies, ed. Afe Adogame, Damaris Parsitau, Jeaney Yip & Chad Bauman.

2021. ‘Homosexuality, Created Bodies and Queer Fantasies in a Nigerian Deliverance Church’. Journal of Religion in Africa. 50(3-4).

2020. ‘Machine Gun Prayer: The Politics of Embodied Desire in Pentecostal Worship’. Journal of Contemporary Religion 35(3), 469-483

2020. Sex and the Spirit: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in a Global Deliverance Movement. Doctoral dissertation, University of Oxford.

2019. ‘Entangled Genealogies and False Dichotomies: Anthropology, Theology and the Post-Secular Paradigm in World Christianity’. Journal of World Christianity 9(1), 61-74.

2018. ‘What Does it Feel Like to be Post-Secular? Ritual Expressions of Religious Affects in Contemporary Renewal Movements’. International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 79(3), 295-310.


Book reviews

2021. ‘Gavin Miller, Miracles of Healing: Psychotherapy and Religion in Twentieth Century Scotland (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020, 175 pp.)’. Psychoanalysis and History, 23(1), 106-109.


Research-led films

2021. Rites Undone (29’57”). A filmic collaboration between Naomi Richman (Cambridge), Eddie Bolger & Bartek Dziadosz (the Derek Jarman lab). Funded by the Wellcome Trust and supported by the Hidden Persuaders project. 

Public Writing

On Attentive Listening: A Conversation with Tanya Luhrmann’. Hidden Persuaders blog.09/09/20.

A Faceless Crisis’. Hidden Persuaders blog30/04/20. 

Narratives of Apocalypse’. Hidden Persuaders blog. 09/04/20.

Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology, Trinity College

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