Dr. Amy Whitehead  BA, MA, PhD

Tutor

Lampeter

E-mail: a.whitehead@uwtsd.ac.uk

Photo of Amy Whitehead

During my time at the Sophia Centre I have taught two courses online (webinars instead of seminars): “Researching Contemporary Cosmologies” and “Astral Religion”. In terms of duties I am responsible for preparing teaching content (power point slides), marking essays, and being in email contact with students. On the MA I also supervise and examine research projects and MA dissertations. I am currently the module manager for “Astral Religion”.

I completed a BA in English Literature at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (USA) in May, 1997, after which I spent several years travelling and gaining ‘worldly’ experience. I returned to HE in 2001 and completed an MA in Contemporary Religions and Spiritualities in 2004. I was accepted onto a PhD programme at the Open University the same year where I began conducting doctoral research into the material dimensions of religion, Spanish Catholic Marian statue devotion specifically, examined alongside that which takes place at the Glastonbury Goddess Temple in England. I completed my PhD in October, 2011 and I have published widely since. I currently live in Somerset, England, where I continue to think about the roles of ‘things’ in religion, cosmology, and culture.

Member of the British Association for the Study of Religion since 2004

Member of the European Association for the Study of Religion since 2004

Member of the American Anthropological Association since 2015

Interdisciplinary in nature, my academic interests in the material cultures of religions intersect widely with Heritage Studies, the Study of Religions, History, Art, Anthropology, and Classical Studies. Accordingly, my teaching areas are social scientific/non-confessional. 

 I have delivered curriculum for a wide range of modules at three different universities (Oxford Brookes University, University of Winchester, University of Wales TSD):

 

“Exploring Ritual” and “Imagining the Other: Theories in Religion” at the University of Wales TSD Lampeter Campus in the Spring of 2014

 

“Researching Contemporary Cosmologies” and “Astral Religion” (MA level, online) for the Sophia Centre, from 2011

 

“Spirituality, Reason and the West”, “Religion, Nature and Sustainability”, “Indigenous Religions”, “Understanding Religion: Issues and Contexts” at the University of Winchester, 2015

 

“Undergraduate Research Methods”, “Religion in Social Context (Socially engaged Buddhism)”, the “Introduction to the Study of Religions”, “Islam and the West”, and “Festivals in Religion and Culture” at Oxford Brookes since 2013.

 

 

I have also supervised several mature MA dissertation students to their successful completion at the University of Wales TSD.

Interdisciplinary in nature, my academic interests in the material cultures of religions intersect widely with Heritage Studies, the Study of Religions, History, Art, Anthropology, and Classical Studies. Accordingly, my teaching areas are social scientific/non-confessional.

 

 I have delivered curriculum for a wide range of modules at three different universities (Oxford Brookes University, University of Winchester, University of Wales TSD):

 

“Exploring Ritual” and “Imagining the Other: Theories in Religion” at the University of Wales TSD Lampeter Campus in the Spring of 2014

 

“Researching Contemporary Cosmologies” and “Astral Religion” (MA level, online) for the Sophia Centre, from 2011

 

“Spirituality, Reason and the West”, “Religion, Nature and Sustainability”, “Indigenous Religions”, “Understanding Religion: Issues and Contexts” at the University of Winchester, 2015

 

“Undergraduate Research Methods”, “Religion in Social Context (Socially engaged Buddhism)”, the “Introduction to the Study of Religions”, “Islam and the West”, and “Festivals in Religion and Culture” at Oxford Brookes since 2013.

 

I have also supervised several mature MA dissertation students to their successful completion at the University of Wales TSD.

 

A scholar of ‘material religion’, my research interests are wide and varied. Examples include approaches to vernacular religion, indigenous religions, ritual studies, diaspora religions, new approaches to animism and ‘the fetish’, ‘alternative pilgrimage’ to stone circles (and the creation of ‘ad hoc’ rituals), New Religious movements, Goddess spirituality/religions, and the intersections between Catholicism and contemporary Paganisms as they emerge in predominantly Catholic countries – as well as in other places. Developing fieldwork approaches that use material culture as a ‘ground up’ approach to religion is an on-going pursuit that underpins the majority of my research activities. Further to this, I am the Managing Series Editor for the newly launched book series ‘Bloomsbury Studies in Material Religion’ where I am helping to shape on going debates in the field. I am also co-editing a four volume series, ‘Indigenous Religions’, for Routledge.

 

My doctoral thesis project used participant observation, and a qualitative, inductive approach, to conduct research in English and Spanish among two groups: a Catholic cult of the Virgin Mary in Andalusia, Spain, and the contemporary Pagan Glastonbury Goddess religion in the Southwest of England. In these contexts, in tension with religious doctrine, research found that the relationships that take place between statues and devotees show that instead of being mere objects, statues of the Goddess and Virgin are subjective, relational participants in ceremony, rites and ritual, and they play central roles in how human relationships with the divine are maintained and negotiated. Building on this previous research, I continue to be interested in the variety of ways in which visual displays of religious objects are found/arranged in museums, temples, and shrines (among other places). I also continue to be interested in contemporary Marian devotion, especially in terms of the ensuing materiality and social roles that are created accordingly.

November, 2014: Research consultancy for the Open University. I researched possibilities and put together a draft bid for funding a project relating to material and performance cultures of London’s indigenous diaspora groups.

June, 2013-July, 2013: Two research consultancies for the Open University. The first was a desk research, REF oriented consultancy; while the second was a field research consultancy for the collaborative ‘Reddo Project’ (Universitiy of Oslo and the Open University) where I spent time with the London diaspora Maori at their annual ‘Matariki Festival’, participating, observing, and informally interviewing participants.

29th October to 16 December, 2012: Research consultant/assistant to Dr Graham Harvey at the Open University. I assisted in constructing a funding bid for the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s ‘Translating Cultures’ large grant scheme. This involved liaising with national and international colleagues, grant writing, and research.

Whitehead, Amy (Forthcoming, 2017). ‘Touching, crafting and knowing: religious artefacts and the new fetishism’ in Harvey, Graham, ed. Religion and the Senses, London: Equinox 

Whitehead, Amy (Forthcoming, 2017), ‘Lived Religion: A method of things’. Journal of Contemporary Religions. 

Whitehead, Amy, (Forthcoming, 2017). “Conference Report: ‘Material Religion: Embodiment, Materiality, Technology’ Duke University, September 10-12, 2015” for Material Religion: the journal of objects, art and belief. 13.1: not yet known.

Whitehead, Amy, (in press). “Enchanted matter: the unpredictability of devotion” in Måns Broo, Peik Ingman, Tuija Hovi & Terhi Utriainen, eds. Exploring the Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacrality: Besides the Religion versus Secularity Debate, London: Equinox.

Whitehead, Amy, 2016. Book Review: Sullivan, B. (ed.) (2015) Sacred Objects in Secular Spaces: Exhibiting Asian Religions in Museums. London: Bloomsbury for the journal Fieldwork in Religion, 2016, Vol 11, No. 2

Morgan, David, Brent S. Plate, Jeremy Stolow, and Amy Whitehead. "On The Agency Of Religious Objects: A Conversation". Material religions: Exploring the material basis of religious traditions. Available at: http://materialreligions.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/on-agency-of-religious-objects.html  [Accessed 22 Apr. 2016].

Whitehead, Amy, 2015. “An English Shade of Animism: Contemporary Statue Devotion and the Glastonbury Goddess Religion” in T. Jones and L. Matthews-Jones, eds. Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things, Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 209-224.

Whitehead, Amy, 2014. Book Review: Fedele, Anna, 2013. Looking for Mary Magdalene: Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France. Oxford: Oxford University Press, for journal The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. 15:2: pp...

Whitehead, Amy 2013. Religious Statues and Personhood: Testing the Role of Materiality. London: Bloomsbury

Whitehead, Amy, 2013. “The new fetishism: Western statue devotion and a matter of power” in G. Harvey, ed. Handbook of Contemporary Animism, London: Acumen.

Whitehead, Amy, 2013. “Hair Offerings, the Gift and Giving of Devotion”. Material Religion: the journal of objects, art and belief. 9.1: 131-133.

Whitehead, Amy, 2012. Book Review: Rountree, Kathryn, 2010. Crafting Contemporary Pagan Identities in a Catholic Society. Burlington: Ashgate, for the journal Advances in research: Religion and Society, Autumn, 2012.

Whitehead, Amy, 2012. Book Reviews: Nicholas Campion, 2012. Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West: Prophecy, Cosmology and the New Age Movement. Ashgate: Farnham, and Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions. New York University Press: New York and London for the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR) Bulletin, Autumn, 2012.

Whitehead, Amy, 2012. Book Review: D. Hicks and M. Beaudry (eds), 2010. The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press for the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR) Bulletin, Spring, 2012

Whitehead, Amy, 2011. “Gift Giving and Power Perspectives: Testing the role of statue devotion in England and Spain” Diskus: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions. 12: 24-37.

Whitehead, Amy, 2010. “Pagans and Things: Idolatry or Materiality?” The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. 12.1: 93-102.

Whitehead, Amy, 2009. “The Goddess and the Virgin: Materiality in Western Europe”. The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. 10.1: 163-83.

Whitehead, Amy, 2007. Book Review: Henare, A., Holbraad, M. and Wastell, S., (eds), 2007. Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically, London and New York: Routledge, for the BASR Bulletin, Spring, 2007