Professor Gordon Lynch
Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern Theology
School Director of Research
- +44(0)1227 827406
Office: Cornwallis North West 210
My research focuses on meanings and values that shape contemporary life, whether these take conventionally religious forms or not. In my earlier work this led me to explore the ways that media and popular culture as sites of 'religious' meaning, as well as new forms of progressive religion in the West.
More recently, my focus has shifted to the ways in which modern societies are still influenced by symbols of the morally-pure sacred and the evil-profane. This has involved thinking about the role that morally-charged stories and images play in contemporary life, including the ways that certain ideas, people or actions are understood as socially polluting. This again has led me to think about the ways in which public media circulate stories in terms of the sacred and the profane, as well as influential forms of the sacred in the modern world such as nationalism and humanitarianism.
A central concern in this work has been to explore how powerful moral motivations can lead to policies and actions that are socially harmful. Building on an initial case study of the abuse and neglect of children within the Irish industrial school system, I have become increasingly interested in child welfare initiatives delivered by governments, charities and religious organizations that were once considered morally legitimate but have since become the focus of moral censure. I am also interested in how public acts of memory for historic child abuse operate as projects of moral repair. My latest book project, Remembering Child Migration, examines the ways in which the humanitarian motivations of child migration schemes in American and Britain were implicated in the suffering that children experienced through them. Alongside the book, I am the academic curator of ‘On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants’, an exhibition running at the V&A Museum of Childhood from October 2015 until June 2016, and have helped to lead a music project, The Ballads of Child Migration, which has created new songs by leading British folk musicians reflecting children’s experiences of these schemes. This work has been substantially helped by an AHRC Follow-On Funding award.
I have a range of experience in taking academic research to wider public audiences. I have written for The Guardian, and have a longstanding collaboration with TrueTube, a leading provider of free on-line educational materials for religious education, citizenship and PSHE at Key Stages 3 and 4. The work with TrueTube has so far led to four films on my work on the sacred, used by over 60,000 students, and a recent film on the Magdalene Laundries which won a national Learning on Screen award in 2014. A new film with them on the British child migration schemes will be released in autumn 2015.
My doctoral students work broadly in the cultural study of religion, and I am particularly interested in projects exploring moral meanings in social life. I am the lead supervisor for an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award project exploring women's experiences of living and working in Magdalene Laundries in post-independence Ireland and have previously supervised two other AHRC CDA projects to completion. Current and recent topics for my PhD students include the study of conservative Evangelical subjectivities, ordinary ethics in the context of student activism at British universities in relation to Palestine-Israel, visitor engagement with religious objects at the British Museum, the meanings and uses of 'natural birth', the role of PR in the construction of media narratives about Islam and the transmission of Catholicism in a secondary school. Current and former students have won AHRC awards on student-led funding streams and have gone on to post-doctoral posts and fellowships.
I have previously served as co-chair of the Media, Religion and Culture group within the American Academy of Religion, chair of the Sociology of Religion study group within the BSA, and am a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University.back to top
Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
Gordon Lynch teaches modules on the sacred and on the sociology of religion.back to top