Dr Claire Wanless (BA, BSc, PGCE, MA, PhD)

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Religious Studies

  • School of Divinity

Contact details



School of Divinity
Mound Place

Post code


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

My PhD research has been published by Bloomsbury Academic in monograph form 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. 

I developed and acted as course organiser for the undergraduate course "Religion and the Climate Crisis" and the postgraduate course "Religion, the Environment and the Climate Crisis", both of which ran in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. In 2023 I was awarded the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR) Teaching and Learning Fellowship for my work on the development of these courses.   


PGCE (UCL Institute of Education)

MA (Open University)

PhD (Open University)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Former member of Executive Committee of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)

Undergraduate teaching

Course Organiser: Religion and the Climate Crisis

Postgraduate teaching

Course Organiser: Religion, the Environment and the Climate Crisis 

Research summary

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.

Current research interests

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 institutional, hierarchical and communal structures of engagement. 

Past research interests

My earlier work explored how social constructivist theories of learning can inform our understanding of the functional viability of individualized religion in secularized societies – see for example my paper titled: Individualized Religion and the Theory of Learning (2017), and my PhD thesis (http://oro.open.ac.uk/66156/).