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Dr Suzanne Newcombe

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined the Religious Studies Department at the OU as a central academic in 2016, having previously been an Associate Lecturer for the university (since 2008). I spent a long period of mentorship under Professor Eileen Barker at the London School of Economics, being a researcher with an organisation she founded, Inform from 2002.

I became fascinated by religion growing up in Kansas, my experience of the landscape strongly affected by the passion and religious beliefs of the people who live there. Religion became a formal focus of study while I was an undergraduate at Amherst College in Massachusetts. In order to explore living religion further, I completed for an MSc in Religion in Contemporary Society in the Sociology Department of the London School of Economics. My PhD study was in the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge where I researched the popularisation of yoga and ayurvedic medicine in Britain.

Research interests

I have active research interests in the sociology and social history of religion (broadly understood) and extensive specialist knowledge in new and minority religious movements in modern and contemporary Britain and the modern history of yoga. I am particularly interested in the interfaces between religion, health and healing and am excited to be co-ordinating a British Academy funded conference with Karen O'Brien-Kop from 26-27 May 2023 entitled 'Public Health after COVID: Beliefs, Religion and Competing Epistemologies.'

I am committed to making accurate and evidenced based information on minority religions accessible. I have also researched topics related to assessing the security threats posed by minority religions, conspiracy theories, hate speech and the harm caused by minority religions. I also have a long-term interest in prophecy, millenarianism and apocalyptic groups.

I am also involved in an internal research project looking at best practice and pedagogies of teaching Religous Studies.

Teaching interests

I currently chair A227: Exploring Religion: Places, Practices, Texts and Experiences and have formally chaired and taught on A332: Why is Religion Controversial?. I also had a lead role in creating the free FutureLearn course Why Religion Matters which presented for the first time in November 2019 and wrote the material on Buddhism in Practice for A111: Discovering the Arts and Humanities. I am currently participating in the production of DD113, the replacement for DD103: Investigating the Social World and AD322, the replacement for A332: Why is Religion Controversial?

Impact and engagement

I am the Honorary Director of Inform an independent charitable organisation which provides information about minority religions and sects which is as accurate, up-to-date and as evidence-based as possible. It was founded in 1988 by Professor Eileen Barker at the LSE and is now based in Theology and Religious Studies at King's College London.  Inform's impact takes several forms including helping individuals and organisations with due diligence, facilitating networking around new and minority religions, collaborating with other organsiations on projects and organising public events.

I have a passionate interest in making complex and controversial subjects intelligible for the general public and have often given talks to A-level students and to the media, writing for The Conversation, writing blog posts as well as participating in podcasts and public-facing events.

External collaborations

Between 2021-2022, I collaborated on a project exploring the Religion and Worldviews proposal for the teaching of religion in UK schools (CoRE 2018) together with Inform and the Faith and Belief Forum which is funded by Culham St Gabriel's. I continue my interest in the relationship between school-level curriclumn and the academic study of religion as an advisor on David Lewin's After Religious Education project.

Since 2016, I have served on the educational advisory committee for the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) at the Panacea Charitable Trust. I worked with Inform and the CenSAMM to create accessible online Profiles of Millenarian Movements which have now been incorporated into the The Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CDAMM), an online encyclopedia covering secular and religious expressions of apocalyptic and millenarian thinking throughout history and across cultures.

I am on the Editorial Board of an open-access academic journals, the Journal of Yoga Studies (2017-present) as well as a new academic book series Religion at the Boundries with Bloomsbury Academic. I am a co-editor of the Oxford Bibliographies subsection on Yoga within Indian Religions and book reviews editor for the journal Religions of South Asia (2011-present) and served as a commissioning editor for the Indian Traditions section of Religion Compass from (2012-2015).

I am a Steering Committee member for the Yoga in Theory and Practice group within the American Academy of Religion (2022-2027). I was on the organising committee for both international Yoga Darśana Yoga Sādhana (YDYS) Conferences held at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland in 2016 and 2022.

I am on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Dekk Institute, an independent social stability research centre based in Bratislava, Slovak Republic (est. 2020).

Between 2015-2020 I was part of a European Research Council (Horizon 2020) grant entitled ‘Medicine, Immortality and Moksha: Entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South Asia’ where I explored overlaps between yoga, ayurveda and Indian alchemy in the modern period. Some of my reflections on my AYURYOG research can be found in the OpenLearn courses Life After Death and Exploring Immortality.


Occult Beliefs and the Far Right: The Case of the Order of Nine Angles (2023)
Shah, Shanon; Cooper, Jane and Newcombe, Suzanne
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism ((Early access))

An Opportunity for Expanding University-School Connections: Stakeholder Views of the Religion and Worldview Proposal (2022)
Harvey, Sarah and Newcombe, Suzanne
Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religion, 24 (pp. 61-86)

Transmutations: Rejuvenation, Longevity, and Immortality Practices in South and Inner Asia (2017-12-31)
Wujastyk, Dagmar; Newcombe, Suzanne and Barois, Christèle
History of Science in South Asia, 5(2) (i-xvii)

Yogis, Ayurveda, and Kayakalpa: The Rejuvenation of Pandit Malaviya (2017)
Newcombe, Suzanne
History of Science in South Asia, 5(2) (pp. 85-120)

Guest Editorial for a Special Issue of Religions of South Asia: Yoga Darśana, Yoga Sādhana: traditions, transmissions and transformations (2017)
Newcombe, Suzanne and Ciołkosz, Matylda
Religions of South Asia, 11(2-3) (pp. 117-122)

Religious prophecies: the next end of the world (2010-04)
Harvey, Sarah and Newcombe, Suzanne
Sociology Review, 19(2) (pp. 8-11)

The Development of Modern Yoga: A Survey of the Field (2009-11-25)
Newcombe, Suzanne
Religion Compass, 3(6) (pp. 986-1002)

Stretching for Health and Well-Being: Yoga and Women in Britain, 1960–1980 (2007)
Newcombe, Suzanne
Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 3(1) (37- 63)

Spirituality and 'Mystical Religion' in Contemporary Society: A Case Study of British Practitioners of the Iyengar Method of Yoga (2005)
Hasselle-Newcombe, Suzanne
Journal of Contemporary Religion, 20(3) (pp. 305-321)

Yoga in Britain: Stretching Spirituality and Educating Yogis (2019-06-01)
Newcombe, Suzanne
ISBN : 9781781796610 | Publisher : Equinox | Published : Sheffield

Introduction to The Usman Report (1923): Translations of Regional Submissions (2022-01-26)
Barois, Christèle; Newcombe, Suzanne and Wujastyk, Dagmar
In: Wujastyk, Dagmar and Barois, Christèle eds. Usman Report (1923) – First Translations of Regional Submissions (IX-XXXI)
Publisher : eJournal of Indian Medicine, Supplement 4

Working with a Body: Flexible Conceptual Models in Contemporary Yoga (2022)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Barker, Eileen and Harvey, Sarah Jane eds. Health and Healing in Minority Religions ((In press))
Publisher : Routledge

Yoga and meditation as a health intervention (2020-10-29)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Newcombe, Suzanne and O'Brien-Kop, Karen eds. Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies
ISBN : 9781138484863 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Anglophone Yoga and Meditation Outside of India (2020-10-29)
Newcombe, Suzanne and Deslippe, Phillip
In: Newcombe, Suzanne and O'Brien-Kop, Karen eds. Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies
ISBN : 9781138484863 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Yoga in Europe (2020-07)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Jacobson, Knut and Sardella, Ferdinando eds. Handbook of Hinduism in Europe (pp. 555-587)
Publisher : Brill | Published : Leiden

Certain Beliefs and Uncertain Evidence – the Case of Shugden (2020-05-14)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Francis, Matthew and Knott, Kim eds. Minority Religions and Uncertainty. Routledge-Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements (pp. 22-43)
ISBN : 9781472484512 | Publisher : Routledge

Reframing Yoga and Meditation Studies (2020)
O’Brien-Kop, Karen and Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Newcombe, Suzanne and O'Brien-Kop, Karen eds. Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies (pp. 3-12)
ISBN : 9781138484863 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

"Trust Me, You Can't Trust Them": Stigmatised Knowledge in Cults and Conspiracies (2018-10-02)
Newcombe, Suzanne and van Eck Duymaer van Twist, Amanda
In: Dyrendal, Asbjørn; Robertson, David G. and Asprem, Egil eds. Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion (pp. 152-179)
ISBN : 978-90-04-38202-2 | Publisher : Brill | Published : Leiden

Spaces of Yoga – Towards a Non-Essentialist Understanding of Yoga (2018-09-10)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Baier, Karl; Maas, Philipp André and Preisendanz, Karin eds. Yoga in Transformation: Historical and Contemporary Perspective. Wiener Forum für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft (pp. 551-573)
ISBN : 978-3-8471-0862-7 | Publisher : V&R University Press | Published : Göttingen

The Revival of Yoga in Contemporary India (2017-07-01)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Barton, John ed. Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Religion
ISBN : 9780199340378 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

Cults: history, beliefs, practices (2014-11-04)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Muck, Terry C.; Netland, Harold A. and McDermott, Gerald R. eds. Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices (pp. 568-572)
ISBN : 9780801037764 | Publisher : Baker Academic | Published : Grand Rapids, MI, USA

The institutionalization of the yoga tradition: ''gurus'' B. K. S. Iyengar and Yogini Sunita in Britain (2014-01-09)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Singleton, Mark and Goldberg, Ellen eds. Gurus of Modern Yoga (pp. 147-167)
ISBN : 9780199938704 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New York

Magic and yoga: the role of subcultures in transcultural exchange (2013-06-21)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Hauser, Beatrix ed. Yoga Traveling: Bodily Practice in Transcultural Perspective. Transcultural research ? Heidelberg studies on Asia and Europe in a global context (pp. 57-79)
ISBN : 9783319003146 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Cham

Religious education in the United Kingdom (2012-08-06)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Davis, Derek and Miroshnikova, Elena eds. The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education. Routledge International Handbooks of Education (pp. 367-382)
ISBN : 9780415536301 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Global hybrids? 'Eastern traditions' of health and wellness in the West (2012-05-09)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Nair-Venugopal, Shanta ed. The Gaze of the West and Framings of the East. Frontiers of Globalization (pp. 202-217)
ISBN : 978-0-230-30292-1 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

Grossbritannien | United Kingdom (2011)
Newcombe, Suzanne and Shterin, Marat
In: Schäfer, Danny and Schwarzer, Corinna eds. Religiöse Intoleranz und Diskriminierung in ausgewählten Ländern Europas - Teil II. Religious Intolerance and Discrimination in selected European Countries - Part II. Religion - Staat - Gesellschaft: Zeitschrift fur Glaubensformen und Weltanscauguungen. Journal for the study of beliefs and worldviews (12/1) (pp. 29-52)
ISBN : 9783643998941 | Publisher : LIT Verlag | Published : Munster, Germany

Financing of churches and religious societies in England (2010)
Newcombe, Suzanne and Barker, Eileen
In: Moravčíková, Michaela and Valová, Eleonóra eds. Financing of Churches and Religious Societies in the 21st Century (pp. 29-52)
ISBN : 978-80-89096-46-6 | Publisher : Institute for State-Church Relations | Published : Bratislava, Slovakia

Ayurvedic Medicine in Britain and the Epistemology of Practicing Medicine in "Good Faith" (2008-07)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Wujastyk, Dagmar and Smith, Frederick M. eds. Modern and Global Ayurveda: Pluralism and Paradigms. Health Studies / Asian Studies (pp. 257-284)
ISBN : 9780791474891 | Publisher : State University of New York Press | Published : Albany, USA

Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies (2021)
Newcombe, Suzanne and O'Brien-Kop, Karen eds.
ISBN : 9781138484863 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Prophecy in the New Millennium: When Prophecies Persist (2013-04-22)
Harvey, Sarah and Newcombe, Suzanne
Harvey, Sarah and Newcombe, Suzanne eds.
Routledge Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements
ISBN : 9781409449959 | Publisher : Ashgate Publishing | Published : Farnham

Inform (2021-01-19)
Newcombe, Suzanne and Harvey, Sarah
Censamm, Critical Dictionary of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements..

Gender and Contemporary Millennial Movements (2021-01-15)
Harvey, Sarah and Newcombe, Suzanne

Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) (2021-01-15)
Newcombe, Suzanne and Steidinger, Silke