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My main research interests lie in the globalisation of religion, new religious movements, religious exoticism, responses to cultural and religious diversity in Britain and France, and anti-Semitism.
I completed my PhD at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) in 2004, on the ways in which practices such as yoga and meditation have spread beyond Indian frontiers and been appropriated by westerners. I showed that the transnational diffusion of neo-Hindu movements was closely associated with a process of westernisation, because of their adaptive strategies and the way in which Western disciples appropriated neo-Hindu practices and values. In addition, this interpretation of the religious interactions between Western Europe and the ‘East’ revealed attitudes towards religion in contemporary western societies and contributed to a sociological understanding of processes of globalisation.
Through ethnographic and documentary research in Britain, France, Brazil and Israel, I have recently explored the Kabbalah Centre, a fast-growing and controversial religious organisation rooted in Judaism. By comparing the diffusion of Kabbalah with the dissemination of Hindu religions in the West, I have analysed the popularisation of ‘exotic’ religious resources in western societies.
My interest in cultural and religious diversity is also reflected in a another research field I'm interested in: the sociological analysis of anti-Semitism. I have begun to reflect on anti-Semitism through an interpretation of its manifestation of contemporary France but also through an analysis of the construction of Jewish identity of Kabbalah Centre students.
I passed my Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches (Accreditation to Supervise Research) in 2015 at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) on the theme “Fragmentation and structure of the contemporary religious field”.
Achievements and Distinctions
2007-2011 ESRC Research Fellow, Faculty of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies, University of Cambridge, “Globalisation and New Religious Movements. Kabbalah Centres in Britain, France, Israel and Brazil” (RES-063-27-0041).
2006-2007 Research Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick: Grant Programme for the Study and Combating of Racism and Anti-Semitism in Europe, funded by Ford and Hanadiv Charitable Foundations. “The Jew as outsider: postnational political community and European anti-Semitism 1990 to the present” (Principal Investigator: Prof. Robert Fine).
2005-2006 ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, “Responses to religious diversity in France and England: The case of Neo-Hinduism” (PTA-026-27-0864).
Professional Activities and Affiliations
Member of the ESRC Peer Review College 2010-
Member of the ESRC Virtual Sift Panel and the Commissioning Panel for the Future Research Leaders Grant call since 2013
Review of grant applications for the AHRC and the British Academy.
Editor of Social Compass for the International Society for the Sociology of Religion
Member of the Advisory Board for the Ashgate Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements.
Member of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion, French representative on the Council 2005-2013
Member of the European Sociological Association, Chair of Research Network 31 “Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism” 2010-2012
Member of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités, French National Centre of Scientific Research since 1996
Member of the Association Française de Sciences Sociales des Religions
Teaching and supervision interests
Globalisation of religion and culture; Sociology of Religion; Political responses to religious diversity; Racism and Anti-Semitism; Qualitative Methods and Ethics in Social Sciences.
Understanding Society (SOC1001)
The Sociology of Religion (SOC2030)
Researching Religious Transformations in the Contemporary World (SOC9025), with Matthew Wood
Society and Social inequalities (SOC2002)
Theory and Practice in Social Research Methods (SOC9012)
Postgraduate Research supervision
Kisten Boal, How does social context affect religious identity? A case study of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Peter Doak, 'Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013: A sociological analysis'
Paula Gourley, Spiritualism and Religious Identity Change in Contemporary Northern Ireland
Merit Korbe, 'De l’évasion à l’engagement : les Occidentaux à la recherche du lien social à travers la pratique du yoga' (Université Paris V, Sorbonne)
Vanessa Rau, 'Re-negotiating Religious and Secular Identities in Diaspora' (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Chris Bunn, 'Faith, Works and Welfare: for a Sociology of Movement' (University of Cambridge)
Bringing the Social Back into the Sociology of Religion (with Matthew Wood). Leiden, Brill (in preparation).
This edited volume aims to develop a critical sociology of religion, in the sense of engaging with ideas, debates and theories central to mainstream sociology and cognate disciplines such as Anthropology, Politics and History. In particular, the contributors share a common orientation to bringing an appreciation of the social back into the sociological study of religion, which they see as too often ignoring or evading crucial issues of power, practice, interactions and broader contexts. Through this, their chapters connect with mainstream sociological debates and attend to issues of epistemology and scientific reflexivity. Based upon original empirical research, they address a range of different religious traditions and regions of the world such Sufism in Pakistan; the Kabbalah Centre in Europe, Brazil and Israel; African Christian missions in Europe; and Evangelical Christianity.
Contributors are: Véronique Altglas, Christopher Bunn, Yannick Fer, Philippe Gonzalez, Gwendoline Malogne-Fer, Christophe Monnot, Eric Morier-Genoud, Alix Philippon, and Matthew Wood.
2014 From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
The popularization of Buddhism, yoga and meditation, public curiosity about shamanism and Sufism, and the recent craze for Kabbalah all demonstrate the appeal of foreign religious traditions to a wide audience in advanced industrial societies. Strange and enticing, their perceived otherness seems to lend them authenticity and to nourish hopes for the discovery of mysteries and hidden truths. Yet this exoticism in the religious sphere, as such, has never been sociologically investigated. Rather, sociologists of religion considered this fascination was evidence of the fact that individuals increasingly craft their religious life and identity by picking and mixing from a wide range of religious traditions. This book shows that this understanding of bricolage with foreign religions over-estimates its eclecticism, takes for granted the availability of religious resources, and misunderstands religious individualism. Ultimately, it uncovers the historical and socio-cultural logics that organize practices of bricolage.
2010 Editor of Religion and Globalization: Critical Concepts in Social Studies, four volumes. London: Routledge.
This four-volume collection from Routledge brings together all the key texts on globalization and religion in one easy-to-use ‘mini library’. The first volume brings together the best scholarship on religion and space in its global context. Volume II entitled 'Westernization of Religion and its Counter-Trends' looks at the debates surrounding the westernization of religion including the transnational diffusion and local expressions of Christianity and counter-trends to the westernization of religion. Volume III features articles concerning the theories and case-studies on the religious responses to globalization. The final volume looks at the new challenges, epistemological and transnational faced by religion and politics in their global context.
2005 Le nouvel hindouisme occidental (New Western Hinduism). Paris: Éditions du CNRS.
Long after the Beatles flew to Rishikesh to discover meditation in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Indian gurus continue to be successful in attracting western disciples in India as well as disseminating their teachings all around the world. These gurus are a major force in the diffusion of Asian religious ideas and practices, such as reincarnation, yoga and meditation, which have become increasingly popular, but have modern gurus really brought about a ‘meditation revolution’ as one of them claimed? On the basis of two case-studies, Siddha Yoga and Sivananda Centres, this book provides an original analysis of the transnational diffusion of practices and beliefs related to Hinduism in Britain and France.
2014 Exotisme religieux et bricolage. Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, 167: 315-332.
2011 The Challenges of Universalizing Religions: the Kabbalah Centre in France and Britain. Nova Religio, 15(1): 22-43.
2010 Laïcité is what Laïcité does: rethinking the French Cult Controversy. Current Sociology, 58(3): 1-22.
2010 (with Matthew Wood) Reflexivity, Scientificity and the Sociology of Religion: Pierre Bourdieu in Debate, Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 23(1): 9-26.
2008 (with L. Amiotte-Suchet) Sectes, controverses et pluralisme : une sociologie sceptique des religions. Entretien avec le sociologue des religions James A. Beckford (Sects, Controversies and pluralism: a sceptical Sociology of Religion. Interview with sociologist of religion James A. Beckford). Ethnographiques.org, 15.
2007 The Global diffusion and Westernization of Neo-Hindu Movements: Siddha Yoga and Sivananda Centres. Religion of South Asia, 1(2): 217-237.
2005 « Les mots brûlent ». Sociologie des nouveaux mouvements religieux et déontologie (‘Words can hurt you’: Sociology of New Religious Movements and Ethics). Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, 131-132: 165-188.
2000 ‘Living in Harmony’: le pranayama à des fins thérapeutiques (Living in Harmony: Therapeutic use of Pranayama). Ethnologie Française, 30(4): 545-553.
2012 La religion comme symptôme (‘Religion as Symptom’). In Philippe Gonzalez et Christophe Monnot (eds.) Penser le religieux, le théologique et le social avec Pierre Gisel, Genève, Labor et Fidès, pp. 33-46.
2011 Yoga and Kabbalah as World Religions? A Comparative Perspective on Globalization of Religious Resources. In Boaz Huss (ed.) Kabbalah and Contemporary Spiritual Revival. Beer-Sheva: Ben Gurion University of the Negev Press, pp. 233-250.
2010 Introduction. In Religion and Globalization: Critical Concepts in Social Studies. London: Routeldge, pp.1-22.
2008 French Cult Controversy at the turn of the New Millennium: Escalation, Dissensions, and new forms of Mobilisations across the Battlefield. In E. Barker (ed.) The Centrality of Religion in Social Life. Essays in honour of James A. Beckford. London: Ashgate, pp.55-68.
2008 Indian Gurus and the Quest for Self-perfection among the Educated Middle-Classes. In J. Stolz (ed.). Salvation Goods and Religious Markets. Theory and Applications. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 211-234.
2007 Siddha Yoga : un cas d’étude de la psychologisation de la religion (Siddha Yoga: a Case-Study of the Psychologisation of Religion). In N. Durish-Gauthier, I. Rossi, J. Stolz, (eds.). Quêtes de santé, entre soins médicaux et guérisons spirituelles. Geneva: Labor et Fidès, pp. 87-99.
2003 De l’orientalisme romantique au yoga sur la 5ème avenue (From Romantic Orientalism to Yoga on Fifth Avenue). In J.-P. Willaime, J.-R. Armogathe, (eds.). Les mutations contemporaines du religieux, Bibliothèque de l’École Pratique des Hautes Études, 119. Paris: Brépols, pp. 95-110.
2001 L’implantation du néo-hindouisme en Occident (The Diffusion of Neo-Hinduism in the West). In J.-P. Bastian, F. Champion, K. Rousselet (eds.). La globalisation du religieux. Paris: l’Harmattan, pp. 49-60.
2015 ‘Introduction’, Social Compass 2015/2 (forthcoming).
2014 ‘Introduction’, Social Compass, 61(2): 145-152.
2010 (with Matthew Wood) Sociologists of Belief and Beliefs of Sociologists (translation into English of Pierre Bourdieu, “Sociologues de la croyance et croyances de sociologues”), Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 23 (1): 1-7.
30 book reviews for the following journals:
Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions,
Journal of Contemporary Religion,
Social Anthropology / Anthropologie Sociale.
Peer-reviews for the following journals and publishers:
Indiana University Press
Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions
International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Journal of Contemporary Religion,
Journal of Global Buddhism
Nordic Journal of Religion and Society
Religião e Sociedade
Religions of South Asia
Social Sciences and Missions
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Research output: Book/Report › Book
Research output: Contribution to journal › Editorial
ISSNs (Electronic): 1777-5825
ISSNs (Electronic): 1890-7008
ISSNs (Electronic): 1751-2697
ISSNs (Electronic): 1961-9162
Activity: Conference participation › Participation in workshop, seminar, course
Activity: External academic engagement › Invited talk
Activity: Conference participation › Participation in conference
Contribution to conference papers, events and activities