Dr Steven Sutcliffe (BA Slavonic and East European Studies London, MPhil Religious Studies Stirling, PhD Religious Studies The Open University)

Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion


I am a specialist in:

- new and alternative forms of religion and spirituality in late modernity

- the history of Religious Studies

I teach and research 'new age' and 'holistic' spiritualities. I'm researching two tributaries into the contemporary scene: 'life reform'/natural health, and the Gurdjieff movement.

I also teach and research the history of Religious Studies as a disciplinary field, including conflicting interpretations of the category 'religion'.


BA MPhil PhD

Responsibilities & affiliations

Membership of editorial boards for the following journals:


Culture and Religion

Journal for the Academic Study of Religion

e-Rhizome: Journal for the Study of Religion, Society, Culture and Cognition

Monograph series:

I am a member of the editorial board for Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies

Undergraduate teaching

New Spiritualities: from New Age to Holistic (3rd/4th year)

Theories of Religion (3rd/4th year)

Studying Religions (1st/2nd year)

Religion in Modern Britain (1st/2nd year)


Postgraduate teaching

New Spiritualities (Level 11)

Contemporary Theories of Religion (Level 11)

Classes on Emics and Etics and Bourdieu's sociology of religion in the MSc Religious Studies core course Theory and Method in the Study of Religion.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I'm always interested in creative interdisciplinary projects in the areas below. Drop me a line!

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

history of the modern study of religion

I have first supervised eight successful PhD theses and second supervised seven more. I've also first supervised six MSc by Research dissertations. Several of my students have published journal articles and monographs based on their work.

Current PhD students supervised

PhD students are currently working with me on dark goddess spirituality, on divinatory/astrological practices in modernity, and on kinship networks in a new religion (Unification Church).

I'm also assistant supervisor on doctoral research on contemproary spirituality in Saudi Arabia, and a practice-led PhD on invented religion.

Past PhD students supervised

Topics of previous PhDs include:  

Spiritualist medumship; conspiracy culture and post-'new age' millenialism; narratives of atheist identity; magical practices and the body; spirituality in artificial intelligence; madness and religion; pilgrimage and tourism on the island of Iona; the work of the psychiatrist and spiritual teacher, Maurice Nicoll

Research summary

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

Current research interests

Life Reform networks - vegetarianism, nature cure, conscientious objection, Dugald Semple c. 1907 to 1957; Gurdjieff/Ouspensky movement - 'work' on the self; social history and ethnography of New Age beliefs and practices; biography of religion as a method - traces of religion in narrated lives; Religious Studies as a disciplinary formation; Counterculture and spirituality in the 'long 1960s'

Knowledge exchange

I have given illustrated talks on different aspects of new spiritualities to the Centre for Contemporary Arts (Glasgow), the annual conference of Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland (Stirling) and to the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre (Edinburgh).

I have given presentations on Dugald Semple and Life Reform networks to Local History societies in Johnstone, Beith, Kilwinning and Campbeltown.

Project activity

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

View all 28 publications on Research Explorer