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Research Students - Social Anthropology  

Year of Start:
Social Anthropology

Research Topic

An Ethnographic Exploration of Nonreligious ‘Cosmic and Social Imaginaries’ and Notions of the ‘Good’ (working title)


Dr. Charles Stewart
Dr. Allen Abramson


Geertz (1977) states that when we describe a person as religious we mean they are motivated by religion; that religion provides the model of and for the world which informs their ideas, values and attitudes. The religious perspective offers a particular conception of the world, the self and relations between them. It is a particular mode of seeing, discerning, apprehending, and understanding; a particular way of looking at life and the world.

So what do we mean when we describe a person as nonreligious? What are the models of and for the world that inform nonreligious people’s ideas, values and attitudes? In reference to Charles Taylor’s (2007) idea of the ‘cosmic and social imaginary’ my research explores whether it is possible to identify a specifically nonreligious, or atheist, Weltanschauung [philosophy for life], and aims to develop an understanding of this conception of the world informs and influences nonreligious people’s values, ideas, and attitudes.

Geertz, C., 1977. Religion as a Cultural System. In The Interpretation Of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, pp. 87-125.

Taylor, C., 2007. A Secular Age, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Research Interests

  • The anthropology of non-religion
  • Dispositional atheism
  • Philosophies of atheism and humanism
  • The continuum of nonreligious identities
  • The failure of the secularisation narrative and post-neutrality secularism
  • The politics of secularism
  • Social Liberalism
  • Marginalisation and minority politics


BA Ancient History and Social Anthropology (First Class Hons) (2009) | Thesis: The Nation, Nationality and Nationalism in Antiquity: Evidence from Ancient Assyria| University College London

MRes Social Anthropology (Distinction) (2011) | Thesis: Living Nonreligious Identity in Britain: Experience, Emotion and Meaning | University College London

Honours and Awards

Gay Clifford Bursary (2006/7) Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, University College London

Phyllis Kaberry Prize (2007) University College London

Gay Clifford Bursary (2007/8) Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, University College London

MG Smith Prize (joint winner 2008) University College London

MG Smith Prize (2009) University College London


NSRN Report: Atheism and Anthropology: Researching Atheism and Self-searching Belief and Experience Workshop (2011) Published by the NSRN. Available at


Economic and Social Research Council UK (ESRC 1+3)

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