Matt Coward
PhD Student



  • 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 (first class), York St John University
  • University Certificate in Catholic Studies, York St John University

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), parts of which are now published as Of Demons and Drama, Matt worked in administration, first for a short period of time in central administration at the University of York before joining the Cambridge Primary Review Trust in September 2015, where his role focused on both research and company management.

UK Tabletop Gaming Communities, the working title of Matt’s PhD, is an ethnography which documents the resurgence of tabletop gaming in the UK and considers the way in which leisure activities can be rendered as productive. As part of this, he is particularly interested in not only the way in which communities form and interact through play, but also their engagement in the bespoke production of communal resources.

Having had a varied career, including spates as an artistic director, youth theatre manager, research assistant, barista, shop assistant and laser quest marshal, Matt is currently the network administrator of DaCNet: Interdisciplinary Death & Culture Research. Furthermore, Matt holds teaching responsibility at the University of York where he runs first year seminars, and at York St John University where he holds a casual lectureship in Religious Studies.

Matt is a member of the British Sociological Association, Leisure Studies Association, and the Games Research Network.



Matt’s research focuses on:

  • Gamers and gaming;
  • Leisure and recreation;
  • Rituals interaction with popular culture;
  • Death and the undead, particularly monstrosity;
  • Contemporary religions (Theravāda Buddhism, Haitian Vodou, East Asian Shamanism).

Outside of his ongoing PhD research, Matt is currently engaged in several projects. These include:

  • The York Death Walk, an innovative pedagogical and public engagement tool which looks to engage individuals in sensory and corporeal ways with issues surrounding death, dying and disposal (led by Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce)
  • Death, Culture and Leisure: Playing Dead, an edited volume contracted for publication in 2020 with Emerald Publishing.

Matt has also been involved with a few recently completed projects, which include:

  • The Bureau of Applied History (PI: Dr Amanda Rees) as part of the AHRC funded project: Unsettling Scientific Stories.
  • Building with Care (PI: Professor Sarah Nettleton) as part of the ESRC funded project: Buildings in the Making.

Currently, Matt is convening Interdisciplinary Approaches to Corpse Work on behalf of DaCNet. He has a large amount of experience in convening and managing large-scale events. Previously, he has been involved in the following events:

  • The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues, University of York (November 2018, co-convenor, funded by the BSA)
  • Death & 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 organisations for events, pedagogical development and research. These include: The British Sociological Association; 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

In development:

Edited collection: Death, Culture and Leisure: Playing Dead (under contract with Emerald Publishing, for publication in 2020)
Journal article: ‘The Cultural Translation of Analog Games’ for a special edition of Analog Game Studies
Review article: ‘Critical Spelunking of Casual Toxicities: Patching Game Studies’ for Information, Communication and Society
Book review: Video Games as Culture for Canadian Journal of Sociology
Book review: The Buddha’s Wizards for Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception

Journal special editions

  • 2018       Translating Buddhism and the Politics of Ownership, Journal of Global Buddhism 19

Peer-reviewed articles

  • 2018       Of Demons and Drama: Ritual Syncretism of Sinhala Exorcism and Forum Theatre, Journal of Global Buddhism19.
  • Translating Buddhism and the Politics of Ownership: Introduction, Journal of Global Buddhism 19 (with Dr Caroline Starkey).
  • 2016       Religious Flows and Ritual Performance: East Asian Interpretations of Shakespearian Tragedy’ Paranthropology 7(1)
  • 2015       ‘Capturing Spirituality: a photo-elicitation study with two British Neo-Pagans’ Paranthropology 6(1)
  • 2014       ‘The Witch from His-Story to Her-Stories: Changing Contexts’ Paranthropology 5(3)

Book reviews

  • 2018       Death Makes the News: How the Media Censor and Display the Dead (Jessica M Fishman), Canadian Journal of Sociology (invited)
  • 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)
  • Zombie Theory: A Reader (Sarah J Lauro, ed), Mortality (invited)
  • 2017       Mors Britannica: Lifestyle and Death-Style in Britain Today (Douglas J Davies) Mortality 23(1)
  • Collins Key Concepts: Sociology (Emily Painter with Esther Zarifi), Network: British Sociological Association 126
  • 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)
  •  Deathpower: Buddhism’s Ritual Imagination in Cambodia (Eric W Davis) Mortality 21(4)
  • 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

  • 2018       ‘The Harvard Poltergeist and Other Honest Spirits’ Forum: University of York 43
  • 2015       ‘Rubbish RE?’ Cambridge Primary Review Trust
  •                 ‘The Prevent Duty: Investigation or Education?’ Cambridge Primary Review Trust

Conference papers

  • 2018       Creative Methodologies: Walking with Death in York. Death & Culture II, University of York (September) (co-author: Ruth Penfold-Mounce)
  • Cemeteries, Consoles & Corpses: Burial Ground Ethnography in Gameplay Environments. Death & Culture II, University of York (September)
  • Some Games You Just Can’t Win: Crowdfunded Memorialisation, Grief and That Dragon, Cancer. Playing Dead, University of York (May)
  • Survival Horror, Surviving Horrors: Wolfenstein, Traumatic Play and the Social Gothic. Gaming the Gothic, University of Sheffield (April)
  • 2017      In War, Not Everyone is a Soldier: Ritual Thresholds and Tabletop Gaming. Thresholds: A pop-up symposium, SATSU, University of York (September)
  • 2016       Of Demons and Drama: Ritual Syncretism of Sinhala Exorcism and Forum Theatre. Translating Buddhism: York St John University (June)
  • 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 (December)
  • The Hammer Wants the Nail’s Magic? American Horror Story, Voodoo and Witchcraft. Fandom and Religion, University of Leicester (July)
  • Trans* in Thailand: Wiparit Orientations and the Role of Buddhist Ethics in Thai Culture and Society. Cutting Edge, Edge Hill University (March)
  • 2014       Crossing and Dwelling… and Performing? Some Thoughts on the Amalgamation of Theory for Interdisciplinary Research. 9th Annual Postgraduate Methodologies Conference, York St John University (November)
  • The Witch from ‘His-Story’ to ‘Her-Stories’: Changing Contexts. Undergraduate Research Conference, York St John University (June)



In the 2018-19 academic year Matt will be teaching on the first-year undergraduate modules Introducing Social Psychology and The Sociology of Crime and Deviance for the Department of Sociology. Matt is also convening the second-year undergraduate modules Religions of East Asia and Buddhism in India and Southeast Asia for the School of Humanities, Philosophy and Religion at York St John University; as part of a casual lectureship.

Matt has experience of teaching in both higher and arts education. He is particularly interested in innovative and engaged forms of student assessment and the development of technology enhanced learning. In the past, he has taught on the following modules:

  • Introducing Social Psychology (Sociology, York)
  • Introducing Criminal Justice (SPSW, York)
  • Exploring Social Policy & Society (SPSW, York)
  • Hindu Texts and Practices (TRS, York St John)
  • Religion & Myth (TRS, York St John)
  • Buddhist Ethics (TRS, York St John)
  • Religion and the Visual Arts (TRS, York St John)

Contact details

Matt Coward
PhD Student
Department of Sociology
University of York
North Yorkshire
YO10 5DD