Department of Sociology
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My research interests lie in the relations between religion, secularism, ethics, and moral life. My work draws together approaches from sociology, anthropology, and philosophy to explore how religion, ethics, and values interact with the social world.
I joined the Department of Sociology in 2018, having previously worked at the University of Kent. My initial doctoral work was primarily philosophical, examining the implications of the work of Emmanuel Levinas for how we think about the relations between subjectivity, ethics, and education. This was the subject of my first monograph, Levinas, Subjectivity, Education: Towards an Ethics of Radical Responsibility. After completing my PhD, I decided to move into the sociology of religion and completed a second PhD which developed my interests in morality and ethical life through an ethnographic study of a large conservative evangelical congregation in London. My second book, Aliens and Strangers? The Struggle for Coherence in the Everyday Lives of Evangelicals, was based on this research. I took up a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Kent in 2012, followed by a lectureship in 2015.
My Leverhulme fellowship focused on religion and childhood, and resulted in my third monograph, The Figure of the Child in Contemporary Evangelicalism, which explores the lived realities of how evangelical Christians engage with children across the spaces of church, school, home, and other informal education spaces, how children experience these forms of engagement, and the meanings and significance of childhood. I also co-edited the Bloomsbury Reader in Religion and Childhood and Religion and the Global City, and have recently co-edited Where is the Good in the World? Ethical life between Social Theory and Philosophy, which explores what it means to study values and the good as fundamental aspects of social life.
My recent research has focused on different aspects of religion, education, childhood, citizenship, and place, in relation to wider questions of religious and cultural change.
My current book project (with Rachael Shillitoe) is entitled Growing Up Godless: Nonreligious Childhoods in Contemporary England. The rise of the avowedly non-religious - especially amongst younger age cohorts - across many formerly Christian liberal democracies has prompted growing research interest in ‘non-religion’, atheism, and other forms of so-called ‘unbelief’. Yet although we know that growing numbers of children are growing up non-religious, we know little about how this change is taking place in everyday life, or its significance for children and their families. Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted with children, parents, and schoolteachers, our book addresses this gap through examining how, when, where, and with whom children learn to be non-religious, and considers what this means both for children and their parents.
I am also currently leading a three-year Leverhulme Trust funded project, Becoming Citizens of ‘Post-secular’ Britain: Religion in Primary School Life, together with Peter Hemming (Surrey), Sarah Neal (Sheffield), and Joanna Malone (York). This study aims to investigate the role of religion in the work that schools do to foster notions of citizenship and national identity, how children and their parents experience these processes, and what this means for children’s sense of belonging in wider society. Building on my research on non-religious childhoods, I am also leading a research project entitled Becoming Non-believers: Explaining Atheism in Childhood.
My research interests lie within the following areas:
I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students in these or related areas.