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Dr Claire Wanless

Claire Wanless

Profile summary

Professional biography

After a prior career in educational and web publishing, I completed my PhD at the Open University on individualized religious practitioners around Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, and am now working full time as a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Divinity of the University of Edinburgh, funded by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. I am also an honorary Visiting Fellow at the Open University.

My PhD research will shortly be published as a monograph titled: Individualized Religion: Practitioners and Their Communities (2021). It provides a case study of co-located religious individuals working outside of formal institutions and shows how, in the absence of top-down hierarchical structures, they are able to create their own personal religious journeys while successfully collaborating to develop and utilize community in sustainable and socially significant ways.

For publications and more information, see my Edinburgh profile at:

Research interests

Contemporary, alternative and non-institutionalized forms of religion; Secularization and theories of secularization; Religious networks and communities; Theory of the subject in religion; The relationship between the individual and community; The structure and functioning of religious community; Alternative religion as a driver of social cohesion, and as a source of subversive and countercultural activity.

My current research focuses on an ethnographic study of Quaker involvement in climate change activism around Edinburgh and London. The aim is to further explore the intersection between ‘horizontal’ religious community and political praxis, and to improve our understanding of the encounter that grassroots activity based on subjective moralities has with hierarchical models of authority.