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Professor Graham Harvey

Graham Harvey photo

Profile summary

  • Professor of Religious Studies
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Hist, Rel St, Soc, SP&C
  • Religious Studies
  • graham.harvey

Professional biography

I joined the RS team at the OU in 2003, having previously been Reader in Religious Studies at King Alfred's College, Winchester (now the University of Winchester).  

Research interests

I did my PhD at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne under the supervision of Prof John F.A. Sawyer. This was about the rhetorics of group identity in ancient Jewish literatures (including the Qumran scrolls, apocryphal and apocalyptic texts, early Christian and formative rabbinic writings). Having been brought up relatively near Stonehenge I was invited to contribute a paper about contemporary Druids at a conference ... and so became a fieldwork researcher among Pagans. This has resulted in many publications, especially Listening People, Speaking Earth: Contemporary Paganism (now in its second edition with Hurst and Co., and with New York University Press) and Researching Paganisms (2004).  

An interest in religion, location and ecology fused with interests in the cultures of Indigenous peoples to generate yet another shift in my research career. I have been privileged to spend time with various generous and interesting hosts, including in Aotearoa, Australia, Hawaii, Newfoundland, Nigeria, the Ojibwe traditional territories and Sápmi. Most of my research about contemporary Indigenous religious traditions has been about “animism”: the varied ways in which people engage with the larger than human world. I have followed up my monograph, Animism: Respecting the Living World (2005; 2nd edition in May 2017), with the edited Handbook of Contemporary Animism (2013). Indigenous definitions of religion (e.g. the late Maori scholar, Te Pakaka Tawhai’s statement that the “purpose of religious activity … is doing violence with impunity”) play a vital role in my argument for a new definition of and approach to religion in Food, Sex and Strangers: Understanding Religion as Everyday Life (2013).  

I am editor of the book series, Religion and the Senses, being published by Equinox. The first volume, co-edited with Jess Hughes (in Classical Studies at the OU) and to be published early in 2018, introduces case studies and scholarly approaches to the so-called "5 senses" in a selection of ancient and contemporary religious contexts. The next six volumes are now being prepared.

I have also been a member of the research team for a project called "Re-assembling democracy" (funded by the Norwegian Research Council) for which I have been privileged to spend time at the Riddu Riddu festival in Sápmi (arctic Norway). I am currently writing about the festival and the ways it generates new approaches to democracy, citizenship, ecology and more.

I am a member of the ESRC, AHRC and Australian Research Council peer review colleges. I was President of the British Association for the Study of Religions (2011-15), following service as Secretary (2003-2009).


See Open Research Online for further details of my research publications.


I'm a member or officer of the following:

  • British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)
  • European Association for the Study of Religion (EASR)
  • Society for the Study of Native American Religious Traditions (SSNART)
  • Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA)
  • and some years I'm a member of the American Academy of Religion (AAR)

I am external examiner at the University of Durham. Previously, I have been external examiner at the Universities of Greenwich, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Winchester, Middlesex and Aberdeen.

Teaching interests

I am currently chair of the new RS module, A227 Exploring religion: places, practices, texts and experiences. In that module I wrote units about religion and food ("what does religion taste like?") and about the role of texts and narratives in Indigenous religions. I have been a member of the module teams for A105: Voices, Texts and Material Culture and A332 Why is Religion Controversial? For the latter, I wrote units on “the new animism” and on “religion and individualism”.

Previously, I have contributed to the production and/or presentation of AA100 The Arts Past and Present, A151 Making sense of things: an introduction to material culture, A217 Introducing Religion, AA307 Religions in Conflict and Cooperation, AD317 Religion Today: Tradition, Modernity and Change, and A330 Myth in the Greek and Roman Worlds I chaired the dissertation year of the MA in Religious Studies, A881.

I have supervised 15 research students to the successful completion of their PhDs and examined 25 others (some internationally).  I am currently supervising 4 more research students.

Impact and engagement

I am happy to work with the wonderful people who organise the biennial Origins Festival of First Nations, a performing arts and cultural festival in London. More info on this can be found by searching for the festival in all interesting social media and web search-engines... But I promise to post more info on the 2017 festival (13-15 June) soon...

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Cross-Cultural Identities Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Material Cultures Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
SUSTECH: Energy and Environmental Research UnitUnitFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology

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