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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. I am also interested in how to better understand and negotiate relationships with beliefs and practices that are at tension with wider society.  

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.

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 wrote the material on Buddhism in Practice for A111: Discovering the Arts and Humanities and co-edited Block 3 of D113: Global Challenges: social sciences in action. I am currently working on the replacement module for A332: Why is Religion Controversial? - AD332: Religion and Global Challenges which will be offered for the first time from October 2025. 

I am also interested in pedagogy of Religious Studies teaching and creating links between Religious Education in schools and university-level studies of religion as a vital element of contemporary global societies. I am an advisor and collaborator on David Lewin's After Religious Education project.

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising:

Lucy May Constantini (Since 2019 with Paul-François Tremlett) "Practice and Text in the South Indian Martial Art Kalarippayarr: Confluence, Contradiction, Evolution." Full-time OOC-DTP Funded Studentship. 

Rose Parkes (Since 2020 with Deborah Drake) "Mobilisation: Neoliberal Yoga, Lived Religion, and Prison Abolition - A Study of Prison Yoga Teachers." Part time.

Vishal Sangu (Since 2021 with Professor Graham Harvey) "​Decolonising Sikhi: A Critical Approach to Decolonise the Study of Religion." Part time. 

Adriana Maldonado Galarza (Since 2023 with Nichola Kentzer and Paul-François Tremlett) "The Role of Absorption: The Key to Spirituality in Modern Postural Yoga." Part time. 

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 organisations 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

In May 2023, I co-organsied a British Academy and Wellcome-funded conference with Karen O'Brien-Kop entitled 'Public Health after COVID: Beliefs, Religion and Competing Epistemologies' at King's College London. 

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 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).

I am a founding manager of the Yoga Research website an emerging international society for the academic study of yoga. 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 a Steering Committee member for the Yoga in Theory and Practice group within the American Academy of Religion (2022-2027).

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.

Publications

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


Balancing pragmatism and precision (2024-04-29)
Newcombe, Suzanne and Harvey, Sarah
In: Thomas, Aled and Graham-Hyde, Edward eds. 'Cult’ Rhetoric in the 21st Century: Deconstructing the Study of New Religious Movements (pp. 21-39)
ISBN : 978-1-3503-3324-6 | Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic | Published : London


Tradition, the Guru, Authorship in the Creation of B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Prāṇāyāma (2024)
Newcombe, Suzanne
In: Hankey, Henriette; Jacobson, Knut A. and Keul, István eds. Embodied Reception: South Asian Spiritualities in Contemporary Contexts. The Study of Religion in a Global Context
ISBN : 9781800503540 | Publisher : Equinox (In Press) | 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
Publisher : Routledge (In Press)


Reframing Yoga and Meditation Studies (2021)
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


Yoga and meditation as a health intervention (2021)
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 (2021)
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)
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


"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


Cults and Online Violent Extremism (2023-07-01)
Newcombe, Suzanne; Harvey, Sarah; Cooper, Jane; Forrester, Ruby; Banks, Jo and Shah, Shannon
GNET, London.


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
CenSAMM


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