Accessibility statement

Matt Coward-Gibbs
Associate Lecturer



  • PhD in Sociology, University of York (part-time, in progress)
  • Master of Arts by Research in Religious Studies, University of Leeds
  • Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies (1st), York St John University
  • University Certificate in Catholic Studies, York St John University
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Matt commenced his PhD at the University of York under the supervision of Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce and Professor David Beer in late 2016. During his MA(Res), Matt worked in administration, firstly in central administration at the University of York before joining the Cambridge Primary Review Trust in 2015, where his role focused on both research and company management.

Analog UK: Tabletop Gaming in the 21st Century, the working title of Matt’s PhD, is a sociologically-grounded ethnography which documents the resurgence and continued growth of contemporary analog play in the UK. It considers both the social value of leisure and dissects the continuum between labour, leisure and production.

Having had a varied career, including spates as an artistic director, youth theatre manager, research assistant, barista, shop assistant and laser quest marshal. Matt currently teaches at both the University of York and York St John University. He is the administrator of DaCNet: Interdisciplinary Death & Culture Research, and a member of both the British Sociological Association and the Leisure Studies Association.



In brief, Matt’s research focuses broadly on:

  • gamers and gaming
  • leisure and recreation
  • rituals interaction with popular culture
  • death and the undead, particularly monstrosity
  • contemporary religions (Theravāda Buddhism and Haitian Vodou).


Outside of his ongoing PhD research, Matt is currently involved with several research projects. He specialises in the development of tools for the dissemination of research including the development of interactive narratives and websites. Projects include:

  • Hen Wlad fy Nhadau: Cymru a’r Cymry – nawr ac yn yr oes o’r blaen (2019). Development of an archive of index cards from the Anthropological Survey of Wales conducted by H J Fleure. Funded by the Royal Anthropological Institute and the University of Aberystwyth. PI: Dr Amanda Rees and Professor Iwan Morus.
  • Pathways, Practices and Architectures (2019). An interactive website documenting the development of the AHRC project of the same name. PI: Professor Nik Brown.
  • The York Death and Culture Walk (2018 to 2019). An innovative pedagogical and public engagement tool led by Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce.
  • Building in the Making (2018). An interactive website to disseminate the findings of the ESRC funded project Buildings in the Making. PI: Professor Sarah Nettleton.
  • The Bureau of Applied History(2018). Alpha development of a series of interactive narratives built in Twine as part of the AHRC funded project Unsettling Scientific Stories. PI: Dr Amanda Rees.
  • The York Crime Walk (2017 to 2018). Development of an interactive walking tour of the city of York. Led by Professor Maggie O’Neill and Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce.
  • Women in Early Buddhist Inscriptions: South Asia 300 BCE – 300 CE (2014). Archival research. PI: Dr Alice Collett.

Event coordination

Matt has a considerable amount of experience in both the convenorship and management of events. Previously, he has been involved in the following events:

  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Corpse Work. University of York (June 2019, convenor)
  • Walking Amongst the Dead: The York Death and Culture Walk. University of York (March 2019)
  • The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues. University of York (November 2018, co-convenor, funded by the BSA)
  • Death and Culture II. University of York (September 2018, co-convenor)
  • York’s Dark Past: Crime, Punishment and Justice. York Festival of Ideas (June 2018)
  • Playing Dead. University of York (May 2018, convenor)
  • CrimNet Conversations. University of York (June 2017, event manager)
  • Primary Education: What is and what might be? National Union of Teachers, London (November 2016, event manager)
  • Translating Buddhism. York St John University (June-July 2016, co-convenor, partially funded by The Spalding Trust and the UK Association for Buddhist Studies)


Matt has received funding from a diverse range of organisation for events, pedagogical development and research. These bodies include: the British Sociological Association (x2); Department of Sociology, University of York; Research Centre for Social Sciences, University of York (x3); University Teaching Committee, University of York (x2); the Spalding Trust.


Selected publications

Matt is currently developing several publications. This includes an edited collection under contract with Emerald, and co-authored journal articles based on recently completed research projects.

Journal special editions

Starkey, Caroline and Matt Coward-Gibbs. (2018). Translating Buddhism and the Politics of Ownership: Between Asia(s) and West(s). Journal of Global Buddhism 19.

Peer-reviewed articles

Coward-Gibbs, Matt. (2018). Of Demons and Drama: Ritual Syncretism of Sinhala Exorcism and Forum Theatre. Journal of Global Buddhism 19.

Starkey, Caroline and Matt Coward-Gibbs. (2018). Translating Buddhism and the Politics of Ownership. Journal of Global Buddhism 19.

Coward, Matt. (2016). Religious Flows and Ritual Performance: East Asian Interpretations of Shakespearian Tragedy. Paranthropology 7(1).

Coward, Matt. (2015). Capturing Spirituality: a photo-elicitation study with two British Neo-Pagans. Paranthropology 6(1).

Coward, Matt. (2014). The Witch from His-Story to Her-Stories: Changing Contexts. Paranthropology 5(3).

Review essays

Coward-Gibbs, Matt. (2019). Critical Spelunking of Casual Toxicities: Patching Gaming Culture. Information, Communication & Society.

Book reviews

Coward, Matt. (2018). Death Makes the News: How the Media Sensor and Display the Dead (Jessica M Fishman). Canadian Journal of Sociology 43(2). (invited)

Coward, Matt (2018). Spirits without Boarders: Vietnamese Spirit Mediums in a Translational Age (Karen Fjelstad and Nguyen Thi Hein). The Pomegranate: International Journal of Pagan Studies 20(1). (invited)

Coward, Matt. (2018). Zombie Theory: A Reader (Sarah J Lauro, ed). Mortality 24(3). (invited)

Coward, Matt. (2017). Mors Britannica: Lifestyle and Death-Style in Britain Today (Douglas J Davies). Mortality 23(1).

Coward, Matt. (2017). Collins Key Concepts: Sociology (Emily Painter with Esther Zarifi), Network: British Sociological Association 126.

Coward, Matt. (2016). Buddhism, the Internet and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus (Gregory Price Grieve and Daniel Veidlinger, eds). Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture 5(2).

Coward, Matt. (2016). Deathpower: Buddhism’s Ritual Imagination in Cambodia (Eric W Davis). Mortality 21(4).

Coward, Matt. (2015). Bonds of the Dead: Temples, Burial and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism (Mark M Rowe). Buddhist Studies Review 31(2).

Non-peer-reviewed publications

Coward-Gibbs, Matt. (2019). Analog UK: Tabletop Gaming in the 21st Century. Tabletop Scotland 2019 Convention Programme.

Coward, Matt. (2018). The Harvard Poltergeist and Other Honest Spirits. Forum: University of York 43.

Coward, Matt. (2015). Rubbish RE?. Cambridge Primary Review Trust.

Coward, Matt. (2015). The Prevent Duty: Investigation of Education?. Cambridge Primary Review Trust.


Coward-Gibbs, Matt. (July 2019). Dying to Play: Games, Death & Social Life. Archbishop Holgate School, York. Public engagement.

Coward-Gibbs, Matt. (May 2019). Analog UK: Tabletop Gaming in the 21st Century. UK Games Expo, Birmingham. Public engagement.

Coward-Gibbs, Matt. (May 2019). An Encounter with Buddhist Death Rituals. York Dead Good Festival. Public engagement.

Coward-Gibbs, Matt. (March 2019). UK Tabletop Gaming Communities. AireCon 5, Harrogate. Public engagement

Penfold-Mounce, Ruth and Matt Coward. (September 2018). Creative Methodologies: Walking with Death in York. Death & Culture II, University of York.

Coward, Matt. (September 2018). Cemeteries, Consoles & Corpses: Burial Ground Ethnography in Gameplay Environments. Death & Culture II, University of York.

Coward, Matt. (May 2018). Some Games You Just Can’t Win: Crowdfunded Memorialisation, Grief and That Dragon, CancerPlaying Dead, University of York.

Coward, Matt. (April 2018). Survival Horror, Surviving Horrors: Wolfenstein, Traumatic Play and the Social Gothic. Gaming the Gothic, University of Sheffield.

Coward, Matt. (September 2017). In War, Not Everyone is a Soldier: Ritual Thresholds and Tabletop Gaming. Thresholds: A pop-up symposium, SATSU, University of York.

Coward, Matt. (June 2016). Of Demons and Drama: Ritual Syncretism of Sinhala Exorcism and Forum Theatre. Translating Buddhism: York St John University.

Coward, Matt. (December 2015). Did you Check that Corpse’s Credit?! Supernatural Powers and Suicide as Displayed in the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: a critical manga reading. Exploring the Extraordinary VII.

Coward, Matt. (July 2015). The Hammer Wants the Nail’s Magic? American Horror Story, Voodoo and Witchcraft. Fandom and Religion, University of Leicester.

Coward, Matt. (March 2015). Trans* in Thailand: Wiparit Orientations and the Role of Buddhist Ethics in Thai Culture and Society. Cutting Edge, Edge Hill University.

Coward, Matt. (November 2014). Crossing and Dwelling… and Performing? Some Thoughts on the Amalgamation of Theory for Interdisciplinary Research. Postgraduate Methodologies Conference, York St John University.

Coward, Matt. (June 2014). The Witch from ‘His-Story’ to ‘Her-Stories’: Changing Contexts. Undergraduate Research Conference, York St John University.


In the 2019/20 academic year, Matt will be teaching on the following modules in the Department of Sociology:

  • Understanding Social Media (L7)
  • Social Media, Data and Society (L7)
  • The Sociology of Crime & Deviance (L4)

Alongside this, Matt also holds a casual lectureship in Religious Studies in the School of Humanities, Philosophy and Religion at York St John University. In 2019/20 academic year he will be teaching on:

  • Introduction to Asian Religions (L4)
  • Religion and Creative Writing (L6)

Matt is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has a variety of experience of teaching in both higher (since 2015) and arts (since 2008) education. He is particularly interested in innovative and engaged forms of student assessment and the development of intuitive and sustainable technology-enhanced learning. His pedagogical values are informed by conviviality (Illich), communities of practice (Lave, Wenger, Snyder), and dialogic teaching (Alexander).

Historically, Matt has also contributed to the following modules, either as a convenor (‡), lecturer (†), or seminar lead (*):

  • Buddhist Ethics (L6, TRS, York St John University) †
  • Buddhism in India and Southeast Asia (L5, TRS, York St John University) ‡†*
  • Exploring Social Policy and Society (L4, SPSW, York) *
  • Hindu Texts and Practices (L5, TRS, York St John University) †*
  • Introducing Criminal Justice (L4, SPSW, York) *
  • Introducing Social Psychology (L4, Sociology, York) *
  • Religion & Myth (L6, TRS, York St John University) †*
  • Religion and the Visual Arts (L6, TRS, York St John University) †*
  • Religions of East Asia (L5, TRS, York St John University) ‡†*
  • The Sociology of Crime & Deviance (L4, Sociology, York) *

Contact details

Matt Coward-Gibbs
Associate Lecturer
Department of Sociology
University of York
YO10 5DD