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My main research interests lie in the globalisation of religion, new religious movements, religious exoticism, responses to cultural and religious diversity in Britain and France, and anti-Semitism.
I completed my PhD at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) in 2004, on the ways in which practices such as yoga and meditation have spread beyond Indian frontiers and been appropriated by westerners. I showed that the transnational diffusion of neo-Hindu movements was closely associated with a process of westernisation, because of their adaptive strategies and the way in which Western disciples appropriated neo-Hindu practices and values. In addition, this interpretation of the religious interactions between Western Europe and the ‘East’ revealed attitudes towards religion in contemporary western societies and contributed to a sociological understanding of processes of globalisation.
Through ethnographic and documentary research in Britain, France, Brazil and Israel, I have recently explored the Kabbalah Centre, a fast-growing and controversial religious organisation rooted in Judaism. By comparing the diffusion of Kabbalah with the dissemination of Hindu religions in the West, I have analysed the popularisation of ‘exotic’ religious resources in western societies. My book, From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage, published in 2014 by Oxford University Press, was chosen by the international Society for the Sociology of Religion as the best book in 2017.
My interest in cultural and religious diversity is also reflected in a another research field I'm interested in: the sociological analysis of anti-Semitism. I have begun to reflect on anti-Semitism through an interpretation of its manifestation of contemporary France but also through an analysis of the construction of Jewish identity of Kabbalah Centre students.
I passed my Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches (Accreditation to Supervise Research) in 2015 at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) on the theme “Fragmentation and structure of the contemporary religious field”.
Achievements and Distinctions
2007-2011 ESRC Research Fellow, Faculty of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies, University of Cambridge, “Globalisation and New Religious Movements. Kabbalah Centres in Britain, France, Israel and Brazil” (RES-063-27-0041).
2006-2007 Research Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick: Grant Programme for the Study and Combating of Racism and Anti-Semitism in Europe, funded by Ford and Hanadiv Charitable Foundations. “The Jew as outsider: postnational political community and European anti-Semitism 1990 to the present” (Principal Investigator: Prof. Robert Fine).
2005-2006 ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, “Responses to religious diversity in France and England: The case of Neo-Hinduism” (PTA-026-27-0864).
Professional Activities and Affiliations
Elected General Secretary of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion since 2017.
Co-Investigator of UKRI UK-Japan SSH Connections Grant "Minority religion/minorities in religion", 2018-2019.
Co-Investigator of PSL project « Agenda for a Critical Sociology of Religion » (ACSREL), CNRS – Université Paris Dauphine – EHESS (France), 2016-2019 .
Invited Lecturer, Institut d'Études Politiques d’Aix-en-Provence, France, 6-19 February 2017.
Member of the ESRC Peer Review College 2010-2014
Member of the ESRC Virtual Sift Panel and the Commissioning Panel for the Future Research Leaders Grant call since 2013
Review of grant applications for the AHRC and the British Academy.
Editor of Social Compass for the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (2013-2015)
Member of the Editorial board of the Journal of Religion in Europe.
Member of the Advisory Board for the Ashgate Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements.
Member of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion, French representative on the Council 2005-2013
Member of the European Sociological Association, Chair of Research Network 31 “Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism” 2010-2012
Member of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités, French National Centre of Scientific Research since 1996
Member of the Association Française de Sciences Sociales des Religions
Program Director for Sociology (2016-2019)
Teaching and supervision interests
Globalisation of religion and culture; Sociology of Religion; Political responses to religious diversity; Racism and Anti-Semitism; Qualitative Methods and Ethics in Social Sciences.
Understanding Society (SOC1001)
The Sociology of Religion (SOC2030)
Approaches to Social Rsearch (SOC9012)
MRes Dissertation (SOC9019)
Postgraduate Research supervision
Peter Doak, 'Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013: A sociological analysis' (second supervisor), Passed with minor revisions, November 2014.
Emma McAllister, Investigating the impact of space and appropriated ritual responses on the understanding of sacred objects (second supervisor).
Co-supervisions outside QUB:
Merit Korbe, 'De l’évasion à l’engagement : les Occidentaux à la recherche du lien social à travers la pratique du yoga' (Université Paris V, Sorbonne)
Vanessa Rau, 'Re-negotiating Religious and Secular Identities in Diaspora' (University of Cambridge), passed with no correction, Feb. 2019.
Chris Bunn, 'Faith, Works and Welfare: for a Sociology of Movement' (University of Cambridge)
Patrick McCartney, ‘Shanti Mandir: Authenticity, Economy and Emotion in a Yoga Ashram’ (The National Australian University, 2015)
Sylvia McCracken, ‘Religion, Identity and Young Adults in East Belfast’ (Queen’s University Belfast, 2016)
Manoela Carpenedo, Becoming ‘Jewish’ believing in Jesus? Conversion, gender and ethnicity in the production of the Judaising Evangelical subject (University of Cambridge, 2018)
2018 Bringing the Social Back into the Sociology of Religion (with Matthew Wood). Leiden, Brill.
This edited volume aims to develop a critical sociology of religion, in the sense of engaging with ideas, debates and theories central to mainstream sociology and cognate disciplines such as Anthropology, Politics and History. In particular, the contributors share a common orientation to bringing an appreciation of the social back into the sociological study of religion, which they see as too often ignoring or evading crucial issues of power, practice, interactions and broader contexts. Through this, their chapters connect with mainstream sociological debates and attend to issues of epistemology and scientific reflexivity. Based upon original empirical research, they address a range of different religious traditions and regions of the world such Sufism in Pakistan; the Kabbalah Centre in Europe, Brazil and Israel; African Christian missions in Europe; and Evangelical Christianity.
Contributors are: Véronique Altglas, Peter Doak, Yannick Fer, Gwendoline Malogne-Fer, Christophe Monnot, Eric Morier-Genoud, Alix Philippon, and Matthew Wood.
2014 From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Nominated as best book in 2017 by the International Society for the Sociology of Religion. The popularization of Buddhism, yoga and meditation, public curiosity about shamanism and Sufism, and the recent craze for Kabbalah all demonstrate the appeal of foreign religious traditions to a wide audience in advanced industrial societies. Strange and enticing, their perceived otherness seems to lend them authenticity and to nourish hopes for the discovery of mysteries and hidden truths. Yet this exoticism in the religious sphere, as such, has never been sociologically investigated. Rather, sociologists of religion considered this fascination was evidence of the fact that individuals increasingly craft their religious life and identity by picking and mixing from a wide range of religious traditions. This book shows that this understanding of bricolage with foreign religions over-estimates its eclecticism, takes for granted the availability of religious resources, and misunderstands religious individualism. Ultimately, it uncovers the historical and socio-cultural logics that organize practices of bricolage.
2010 Editor of Religion and Globalization: Critical Concepts in Social Studies, four volumes. London: Routledge.
This four-volume collection from Routledge brings together all the key texts on globalization and religion in one easy-to-use ‘mini library’. The first volume brings together the best scholarship on religion and space in its global context. Volume II entitled 'Westernization of Religion and its Counter-Trends' looks at the debates surrounding the westernization of religion including the transnational diffusion and local expressions of Christianity and counter-trends to the westernization of religion. Volume III features articles concerning the theories and case-studies on the religious responses to globalization. The final volume looks at the new challenges, epistemological and transnational faced by religion and politics in their global context.
2005 Le nouvel hindouisme occidental (New Western Hinduism). Paris: Éditions du CNRS.
Long after the Beatles flew to Rishikesh to discover meditation in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Indian gurus continue to be successful in attracting western disciples in India as well as disseminating their teachings all around the world. These gurus are a major force in the diffusion of Asian religious ideas and practices, such as reincarnation, yoga and meditation, which have become increasingly popular, but have modern gurus really brought about a ‘meditation revolution’ as one of them claimed? On the basis of two case-studies, Siddha Yoga and Sivananda Centres, this book provides an original analysis of the transnational diffusion of practices and beliefs related to Hinduism in Britain and France.
2014 Exotisme religieux et bricolage. Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, 167: 315-332.
2011 The Challenges of Universalizing Religions: the Kabbalah Centre in France and Britain. Nova Religio, 15(1): 22-43.
2010 Laïcité is what Laïcité does: rethinking the French Cult Controversy. Current Sociology, 58(3): 1-22.
2010 (with Matthew Wood) Reflexivity, Scientificity and the Sociology of Religion: Pierre Bourdieu in Debate, Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 23(1): 9-26.
2008 (with L. Amiotte-Suchet) Sectes, controverses et pluralisme : une sociologie sceptique des religions. Entretien avec le sociologue des religions James A. Beckford (Sects, Controversies and pluralism: a sceptical Sociology of Religion. Interview with sociologist of religion James A. Beckford). Ethnographiques.org, 15.
2007 The Global diffusion and Westernization of Neo-Hindu Movements: Siddha Yoga and Sivananda Centres. Religion of South Asia, 1(2): 217-237.
2005 « Les mots brûlent ». Sociologie des nouveaux mouvements religieux et déontologie (‘Words can hurt you’: Sociology of New Religious Movements and Ethics). Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, 131-132: 165-188.
2000 ‘Living in Harmony’: le pranayama à des fins thérapeutiques (Living in Harmony: Therapeutic use of Pranayama). Ethnologie Française, 30(4): 545-553.
2018 Spirituality and discipline; not a contradiction in terms. In V. Altglas and Matthew Wood (eds.) Bringing the Social Back into the Sociology of Religion. Leiden, Brill pp. 79-107.
2018 Introduction. An Epistemology for the Sociology of Religion (with Matthew Wood). In V. Altglas and Matthew Wood (eds.) Bringing the Social Back into the Sociology of Religion. Leiden, Brill pp. 1-34.
2012 La religion comme symptôme (‘Religion as Symptom’). In Philippe Gonzalez et Christophe Monnot (eds.) Penser le religieux, le théologique et le social avec Pierre Gisel, Genève, Labor et Fidès, pp. 33-46.
2011 Yoga and Kabbalah as World Religions? A Comparative Perspective on Globalization of Religious Resources. In Boaz Huss (ed.) Kabbalah and Contemporary Spiritual Revival. Beer-Sheva: Ben Gurion University of the Negev Press, pp. 233-250.
2010 Introduction. In Religion and Globalization: Critical Concepts in Social Studies. London: Routeldge, pp.1-22.
2008 French Cult Controversy at the turn of the New Millennium: Escalation, Dissensions, and new forms of Mobilisations across the Battlefield. In E. Barker (ed.) The Centrality of Religion in Social Life. Essays in honour of James A. Beckford. London: Ashgate, pp.55-68.
2008 Indian Gurus and the Quest for Self-perfection among the Educated Middle-Classes. In J. Stolz (ed.). Salvation Goods and Religious Markets. Theory and Applications. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 211-234.
2007 Siddha Yoga : un cas d’étude de la psychologisation de la religion (Siddha Yoga: a Case-Study of the Psychologisation of Religion). In N. Durish-Gauthier, I. Rossi, J. Stolz, (eds.). Quêtes de santé, entre soins médicaux et guérisons spirituelles. Geneva: Labor et Fidès, pp. 87-99.
2003 De l’orientalisme romantique au yoga sur la 5ème avenue (From Romantic Orientalism to Yoga on Fifth Avenue). In J.-P. Willaime, J.-R. Armogathe, (eds.). Les mutations contemporaines du religieux, Bibliothèque de l’École Pratique des Hautes Études, 119. Paris: Brépols, pp. 95-110.
2001 L’implantation du néo-hindouisme en Occident (The Diffusion of Neo-Hinduism in the West). In J.-P. Bastian, F. Champion, K. Rousselet (eds.). La globalisation du religieux. Paris: l’Harmattan, pp. 49-60.
Syncretism (including bricolage and hybridity). In Adam Possamai and Anthony Joseph Blasi (eds.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Sociology of Religion (forthcoming).
Exoticism (religious). In Adam Possamai and Anthony Joseph Blasi (eds.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Sociology of Religion (forthcoming).
Individualism (including individualization). In Adam Possamai and Anthony Joseph Blasi (eds.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Sociology of Religion (forthcoming).
Laicité. In Adam Possamai and Anthony Joseph Blasi (eds.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Sociology of Religion (forthcoming).
Westernisation and Easternisation of Religion. In Adam Possamai and Anthony Joseph Blasi (eds.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Sociology of Religion (forthcoming).
2018 Bricolage. In George Ritzer (ed.) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Malden, Wiley-Blackwell
2015 ‘Spirituality, the Opiate of Scholars of Religion?’ , Religion 46(3): 1-9.
‘Introduction’, Social Compass 62(2): 127-131.
2014 ‘Introduction’, Social Compass, 61(2): 145-152.
2010 (with Matthew Wood) Sociologists of Belief and Beliefs of Sociologists (translation into English of Pierre Bourdieu, “Sociologues de la croyance et croyances de sociologues”), Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 23 (1): 1-7.
30 book reviews for the following journals:
Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions,
Journal of Contemporary Religion,
Social Anthropology / Anthropologie Sociale.
Peer-reviews for the following journals and publishers:
Indiana University Press
Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions
International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Journal of Contemporary Religion
Journal of Religion in Europe
Journal of Global Buddhism
Nordic Journal of Religion and Society
Religião e Sociedade
Religions of South Asia
Social Sciences and Missions
Willingness to take PhD students
- Sociological and Anthropological approaches to religion
- Identity formation in Northern Ireland and beyond
- Racism and anti-Semitism
- Social class
Research output: Book/Report › Book
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed)
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed)
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1777-5825
Editions EHESS: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 0.04 SJR 0.105 SNIP 0.127
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1461-7404
SAGE Publications Ltd
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 0.74 SJR 0.477 SNIP 1.678
Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1890-7008
Scopus rating (2017): SJR 0.197 SNIP 2.201
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 0.71 SJR 0.343 SNIP 1.332
University of California Press
Scopus rating (2017): CiteScore 0.13 SJR 0.127 SNIP 0.633
Activity: Talk or presentation types › Invited talk
Activity: Participating in or organising an event types › Participation in workshop, seminar, course
Une réforme de la sociologie des religions ? Autour du livre Bringing the Social Back into the Sociology of Religion,
Activity: Talk or presentation types › Invited talk
From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage (2014, Oxford University Press), as the best book in 2017.
Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)
Contribution to conference papers, events and activities