Dr Steven Sutcliffe (BA MPhil PhD)

Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion


I am a specialist in:

- alternative and popular forms of religion

- the modern history of the study of religion

I teach and research 'new age' and 'holistic' spirituality in the modern world using historical, biographical and ethnographic methods.

I teach and research the history of the modern study of religion, including debates and disputes over the category 'religion'.

I am interested in how this central modern category has proved a headache for philosophy of science and sociology of knowledge. In this light I am preparing an edited volume called What is Religious Studies? which examines how the study of religion has been represented in anglophone universities since the 1960s.

I adopt an interdisciplinary approach largely based in historical, ethnographical and text-based analyses, but I am also open to cognitive and biological theories.


BA MPhil PhD

Responsibilities & affiliations

External appointments

Membership of advisory boards for journals:

  • Religion
  • Culture and Religion
  • Journal of Alternative Spirituality and New Age Studies

Membership of editorial boards for monograph series:

  • Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies
  • Equinox Press: The Study of Religion in a Global Context - IAHR Book Series

Undergraduate teaching

New Age Beliefs and Practices (3rd/4th year)

Theories of Religion (3rd/4th year)

History of the study of religion (2nd year)

Cognitive theories of religion (2nd year)

New forms of religion: Paganism and New Age (1st year)

Postgraduate teaching

I teach core courses and electives in the MSc in Religious Studies.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I have recently supervised successful postgraduate research at MSc and PhD level in contemporary Spiritualism, non-religion, 2012 millenialism, Buddhism in Scotland and contemporary Gnostic movements.


Current PhD students supervised

PhD students are currently working with me on the following projects:  conspiracy culture and post-'new age' millenialism, contemporary atheist identities, magical practices and the body, spirituality in artificial intelligence, madness and religion, tourism and pilgrimage in Scotland, and the life and work of Maurice Nicoll.

I would be glad to discuss research proposals in the following areas:

  • alternative forms of religion in the twentieth century
  • holistic and vitalistic models of health, healing and diet
  • discourses on spirituality in modernity
  • atheism, humanism and the rejection of religion
  • comparative theories of religion
  • history of the modern study of religion

Research summary

More information about research projects by Dr Sutcliffe are available on hisEdinburgh Research Explorer profile.

Current research interests

new age beliefs and practices in historical and comparative context spirituality in psychotherapy and counselling in Scotland biography of religion: religion in narrated lives the study of religion or Religious Studies as a disciplinary formation, especially since the 1960s

Project activity

More information about research projects by Dr Sutcliffe are available on hisEdinburgh Research Explorer profile.

View all 28 publications on Research Explorer