School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Professor Glenn Bowman

Professor in Socio-Historical Anthropology

Ethnic, national and religious identity politics, intercommunal relations, shrines and pilgrimage; Israel/Palestine


profile image for Professor Glenn Bowman

School roles and responsibilities

Programme Convenor for BA Liberal Arts

Academic background

I came to anthropology out of a literature background, but one which had always focused on the social context of representation and symbolisation. I did a BA degree in English Literature at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, a Folklore and Folklife MA at University of Pennsylvania, a Comparative Literature MA at SUNY at Buffalo (where I worked with René Girard), before finally ending up where that trajectory was aiming at the Institute of Social Anthropology at Oxford. I did my DPhil fieldwork on Jerusalem pilgrimage, spending one of the most intense couple of years of my life living in Jerusalem's Old City (1983-85), before returning to the UK to teach at UCL and Kent. The first Palestinian intifada drew me back to the West Bank, and I have continued to work there until the current day (see research below). When things began to seem a bit rough there for fieldwork (or more to the point for the institutions which gave grants) I went to the 'safer' territory of Yugoslavia to study nationalist mobilisation within a federated state, only to get caught up in the opening days of the war. I've remained engaged with both regions, and have recently branched out a bit to work in Cyprus. I'm married to a feminist professor of Film Studies, am a keen cyclist, like to cook, keep an allotment, and am a rather obsessive collector of books, music, contemporary art, and ethnic antiques.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Book section
Bowman, G. (2020). Grounds for Sharing -- Occasions for Conflict: An Inquiry into the Social Foundations of Cohabitation and Antagonism. in: Shared Spaces and their Dissolution: Practices of Coexistence in the Post-Ottoman Sphere. Oxford: Berghahn.
Bowman, G. (2015). À l'ombre de Rachel. in: Lieux Saints Partagés (catalogue of MuCEM exhibition). Acts Sud, pp. 70-73.
Bowman, G. (2014). "Viewing the Holy City: An Anthropological Perspectivalism". in: Jerusalem: Conflict and Cooperation in a Contested City. Syracuse University Press, pp. 217-232.
Bowman, G. (2014). "Concluding Thoughts". in: Pilgrimage, Politics and Place-Making in Eastern Europe: Crossing the Borders. Ashgate, pp. 153-158.
Bowman, G. (2015). "Encystation": Containment and Control in Israeli Ideology and Practice. Journal of Palestine Studies [Online] 44:6-16. Available at:
Bowman, G. (2014). Sharing and Exclusion: the Case of Rachel's Tomb. Jerusalem Quarterly [Online]:30-49. Available at:
Bowman, G. (2014). Violence Before Identity: An Analysis of Identity Politics. Sociological Review [Online] 62:152-165. Available at:
Bowman, G. (2014). The Choreography of Cohabitation: Contemporary Sharing of Shrines in Macedonia (in Russian). State, Religion and Church in Russia and Worldwide [Online] 32:113-138. Available at:
Showing 8 of 45 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]
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I recently set up the new BA degree in Liberal Arts which began in September 2014, offering a means of grasping the world and the contemporary from a range of perspectives – political, cultural, historical and economic (see I continue to convene the MA in the Anthropology of Ethnicity, Nationalism and Identity. I also teach advanced modules in anthropological theory on both the BA and MA programmes, a module on the Southern Mediterranean, the Photographic Workshop, and the MA modules linked to the ethnicity, nationalism and identity programme. I supervise seven PhD students, having had four others submit this year.  

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Walling in palestineI've been working over the past couple of decades on issues of how people in communities marked by diversity — particularly by different religious affiliations — manage for the most part to live together but, in certain circumstances, divide into antagonistic groupings which war with each other.

This concern, prompted by my ongoing work in Jerusalem and the Israeli Occupied West Bank (a.k.a. Palestine), involved me first of all with nationalist mobilisation amongst Palestinians and then brought me into Yugoslavia on the cusp of it becoming 'Former Yugoslavia'. It's also made me very interested in how 'shared' religious sites operate -- how Muslims, Christians, and Jews can cohabit shrines for long periods of time, and how and why that cohabitation explodes under certain promptings into expulsive violence. This work, funded by the British Academy, has brought me into research in Macedonia, a fascinating area of continuing, if occasionally endangered, inter-communal cohabitation in the midst of the, for the most part, ethnically-divided territories of Former Yugoslavia.

Recently, prompted by the catastrophic developments in Israel-Palestine, I've been working on processes designed to block any contacts between communities, and this project — concerned with 'walling' -- has not only led to investigations of the impact of the Israeli 'Separation Barrier' on populations on both sides of it, but also to fieldwork in Cyprus, itself divided by the 'Green Line'. This work has been funded by the Council for British Research in the Levant. All of this research is dedicated to a critical investigation of the — I believe ungrounded — tenets of 'Identity Politics' which underlie powerfully dangerous arguments such as those of the advocates of the 'Clash of Civilisations'.

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I am available to supervise PhD students in the fields of ethnic, national and religious identity politics, intercommunal relations, shrines and pilgrimage; Israel/Palestine and, Former Yugoslavia

Sharing places of worshipI currently supervise a number of PhD students conducting research within the field of Social Anthropology:


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Editorial Boards of Anthropological Theory, Critique of Anthropology, and Focaal (former editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute)

14 May 2013. “Chips of Messianic Time: Imagining and Enacting ‘Mixing’ at Religious Sites”, Visions of Community (Austrian Research Council), at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria.

15 February 2013. Keynote Address - “The Grounds of Sharing: an Inquiry into Intercommunality at Religious Sites and its Dissolution” at Geteiltes Gedenken. Parallelnutzungen von Sakralorten in interreligiösen und -konfessionellen Kontexten (Shared memory. Parallel use of religious sites in interreligious and interdenominational contexts) at Philosophische Fakultat und Fachbereich Theologie, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

23 November 2012. “A Weeping on the Road to Bethlehem: Contestation over the Uses of Rachel’s Tomb” at Restructuring Religious Spaces: Media, Mediation and Religious Communities in the Mediterranean. University of Bochum, Bochum, Germany.

28 September 2012, Keynote Address - “In Media Res: Local Intercommunal Shrine Pilgrimage in Bosnia Hercegovina, Macedonia, and Kosova: Past, Present and Possible Futures” at Pilgrimage and Sacred Places in Central and Eastern Europe: Place, Politics and Religious Tourism. University of Zadar, Croatia.

14 February 2012, “Mobilities and Immobilities: Reflections on Fieldwork in Palestine”. Public Lecture at The Center for Religion, Culture and Public Life, Columbia University. New York, U.S.A.

14-15 December 2011, “Issues of Sharing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:” at Interdiscipionary Conference on Sharing Sacred Space: Legal, Theological, and Sociological Perspectives, Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome, Italy.

14-15 October 2011, Keynote Address (“Grounds for Sharing -- Occasions for Conflict; and Inquiry into the Social Foundations of Cohabitation and Antagonism” at conference Shared Spaces and their Dissolution: Practices of Cohabitation in Cyprus and Elsewhere, Home for Cooperation, PRIO Cyprus Centre, Nicosia, Cyprus.

19-20 May 2011, Invited Lecture, "Secularist versus Sectarian Strategies of Mobilisation:  Israel/Palestine and Former Yugoslavia" at conference 'Pilgrimage in Europe Today', University Centre Saint Ignatius Antwerp, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

6-7 May 2010. Keynote Lecture. "Choreography of Sacred Spaces: State, Religion, and Conflict Resolution" at Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration and Religion and the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life, Columbia University. New York, New York. 

12-15 April 2010. Keynote Lecture. "Sainthood in Fragile States", Danish Institute, Damascus, Syria. Sponsored by the Department of Cross Cultural and Regional Studies. University of Copenhagen. Damascus, Syria.

7 November 2009. "Shared Spaces". Goethe Institute (hosted by PRIO - Cyprus Centre), Nicosia Buffer Zone, Cyprus

28 March 2009. Keynote, “The fate of sharing in an age of Nations: Rethinking syncretism in the wake of Empire” at Eastern Christianity in Post-Imperial Societies. Religious Studies Programme, Department of History, Central European University. Budapest, Hungary. 

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I am available to provide topical comment or in-depth discussion of topics related to Israel/Palestine, states of Former Yugoslavia, religious antagonisms and/or cohabitations (for instance, confrontations over or sharing of holy sites), religious fundamentalisms and/or extremisms, ethnic or sectarian identities throughout the Middle East.

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Last Updated: 22/09/2015