The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Professor Gordon Lynch
Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern Theology
Theology and Religious Studies
Gordon is a great lecturer, does fantastic research, and his lectures are always engaging, fascinating and most of all, fun! We have a wealth of information to aid us in our studies, and to add to this, he is such a nice man, always kind and keen to help.
My broad area of research interest is in the cultural study of religion and the sacred in modern Western society. My main focus is on the development of a cultural sociological approach to the study of the sacred, where the sacred is understood as what people collectively experience as taken-for-granted moral realities that exert an unquestionable claim over social life. I have developed this work through two recent books, The Sacred in the Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2012) and On the Sacred (Acumen, 2012), as well as other work including blogs and a series of on-line films for use in schools. I have argued that key modern sacred forms cannot be neatly categorised as ‘religious’ or ‘secular’ but are common patterns of meaning and moral sentiment (like nationalism or humanitarianism) that get expressed in both religious and secular ways. I am interested in the cultural histories of sacred forms – how people have come to experience particular phenomena as compelling moral realities – as well as theoretical and methodological questions of how we study the significance of sacred forms in specific social contexts. The ultimate point of this work, however, is to understand how sacred meanings shape specific social situations in ways that can be constructive and harmful, and to encourage greater reflexivity about the implications of our moral passions. Building on a case study that I wrote on the Irish industrial school system for The Sacred in the Modern World, I am currently developing a larger project exploring the ways in which sacred practices of nation-building were implicated in the systemic abuse and neglect of children by religious institutions across a range of different national cases. My interest in the cultural study of religion has previously focused on the significance of media and popular culture in the lives of people within and beyond formal religious institutions. I’m more interested now in terms of how we understand religious life in relation to processes of embodiment, material culture and mediation, including the ‘non-human agency’ of objects and technologies. I’ve written on the need to take more seriously people’s relations with divine beings as social (though not necessarily metaphysical) realities, and see much potential in the development of a more inter-subjective, existential and critical approach to the sociology of religion. I have played an active role in developing research networks on themes relating to my work, including two AHRC-funded networks on ‘Religion, the sacred and changing cultures of everyday life’ and ‘Young people and the cultural performance of belief’. I am currently supervising the following doctoral projects:
- Steph Berns: ‘Visitor engagement with religious objects in major exhibitions at the British Museum’ (AHRC CDA project in conjunction with the British Museum)
- Claire Forbes: ‘PR logic and the construction of Islam in the public sphere’ (School of European Culture and Languages scholarship)
- Rachel Hanemann: ‘The role of embodiment in religious transmission in Catholic school education’
- Sarah Harvey: ‘Embodied forms of the sacred in the natural birth movement’ (AHRC BGP studentship)
- Ruth Sheldon: ‘The performance of sacralised meaning in relation to Israel-Palestine at British universities’ (AHRC CDA project in conjunction with the National Union of Students)
- Anna Strhan: ‘Listening, speaking and the coherence of God in conservative Evangelical subjectivities in the metropolis’ (University of Kent studentship)
I normally accept one or two new doctoral students each year to work on topics related to my field of research, and have a good track record in helping outstanding applicants to secure funding for their doctoral work. I have previously served as the co-chair on the Religion, Media and Culture group within the American Academy of Religion, and chair of the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion study group. I helped to design the priority research themes for the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society research programme, for which I have also served as a member of the steering group. I am a member of the sub-panel for Theology and Religious Studies for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise. Although no longer practising, I have previously trained as a psychodynamic counsellor and written on issues of clinical research and practice.back to top
- (2012) The Sacred in the Modern World: A Cultural Sociological Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- (2012) On the Sacred. London: Acumen.
- (2011), co-edited with Jolyon Mitchell and Anna Strhan, Religion, Media and Culture: A Reader. London: Routledge.
- (2007), The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty-First Century. London: IB Tauris.
- (ed.) (2007), Between Sacred and Profane: Researching Religion and Popular Culture. London: IB Tauris.
- (2005) Understanding Theology and Popular Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.
- (2003) Losing My Religion? Moving on From Evangelical Faith. London: DLT.
- (2002) Pastoral Care and Counselling. London: Sage.
- (2002) After Religion: ‘Generation X’ and the Search for Meaning. London: DLT.
- (ed.) (1999) Clinical Counselling in Pastoral Settings. London: Routledge.
- (2012), with Callum Brown, ‘Cultural perspectives’, in (eds.) L. Woodhead & R. Catto, Religion and Change in Modern Britain. London: Routledge, pp.329-51.
- (2011) ‘Public media and the sacred: a critical perspective’,
- (2010) ‘Generation X religion: a critical approach’, in (eds.) S. Collins-Mayo and B. Pink-Dandelion, Religion and Youth, Aldershot: Ashgate, pp.33-39.
- (2009) 'Religion, media and cultures of everyday life', in (ed.) J. Hinnells, The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, London: Routledge, pp.543-57.
- (2009) 'Object theory: towards a mediated, dynamic and intersubjective theory of religion', in (ed.) D. Morgan, Religion and Material Culture: the Matter of Belief, London: Routledge, pp.40-55.
- (2009) 'Cultural theory and cultural studies', in (ed.) J. Lyden, The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film, London: Routledge, pp.275-91.
- (2008) ‘Religious experience and popular culture: developing a critical frame of enquiry’, in (ed.) H. Zock, At the Crossroads of Art and Religion. Leuven: Peeters, pp.71-84.
- (2007) ‘What is this “religion” in the study of religion and popular culture?’, in (ed.) G. Lynch, Between Sacred and Profane, London: IB Tauris, pp.125-42.
- (2007), ‘Film and the subjective turn: how the sociology of religion can contribute to theological readings of film’ in (ed.) R. Johnston, Reviewing Theology and Film, Grand Rapids: Baker, pp.109-25.
- (2006), ‘Beyond conversion: exploring the process of moving away from Evangelical Christianity’, in (eds.) C. Partridge & H. Reid, Finding and Losing Faith: Studies in Conversion, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, pp.23-38.
- (2005) 'Theologie sakularer Kultur', Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (4th edition), p.2325.
Special journal issues/articles in refereed journals:
- (2011) special issue of Culture and Religion,(12:2)co-edited with Mia Lovheim, on ‘The Mediatization of Religion’
- (2011) ‘What can we learn from the mediatisation of religion debate?’, Culture and Religion, 12(2), 203-10.
- (2010) response to review article of my book The New Spirituality, in Conversations in Theology and Religion, 8(1).
- (2009) with Giles Beck, ' "We are all one: we are all gods": negotiating spirituality in the conscious partying movement', Journal of Contemporary Religion, 339-55.
- (2009) with Heidi Campbell and Pete Ward, ‘ “Can you hear the army?” Exploring discourse in Evangelical youth-prayer meetings’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, 24(2), pp.219-36.
- (2006) ‘The role of popular music in the construction of alternative spiritual identities and ideologies’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 45(4), pp.481-8.
- (2006) with Emily Badger, ‘The mainstream post-rave club scene as a secondary institution: a British perspective’, Culture and Religion, 7(1), pp.27-40.
- (2006) ‘Exploring the research agenda for religion and popular culture: a report of a panel discussion at the American Academy of Religion, November 2005’, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, http://www.usask.ca/relst/jrpc/reports12.html
In 2011/12, Professor Lynch will be teaching undergraduate modules on Religion in the Contemporary World, Sociology of Religion and The Sacred in Contemporary Culture, as well as Masters level modules on Theory in the Study of Religion and Methodological Approaches to the Study of Religion.back to top