Personal profile

Research overview

Greek religion, ritual and magic; anthropology of religion.

My research focuses on Greek religion of the fourth and fifth centuries BC, primarily in Athens, although I am also interested in earlier Greek religion and the emergence of the more familiar Classical religious system. The project that I am currently engaged in is to explore ways of conceptualising a religion that does not emphasise belief or faith without recourse to the traditional dichotomy of religions of belief vs. religions of performance. This older framework reflects key debates in the Early Modern period - particularly the impacts of the Reformation and  early Enlightenment study of religion on the concepts of religion and belief - but provides a problematic model for Greek religion. In place of an approach based on belief and ritual, I am attempting to develop an perspective based on recent anthropological work on concepts of perception, skill and experience.

Future research

Current projects include the preparation for publication of the proceedings of the conference 'Belief and its Alternatives in Greek and Roman Religion' which I organised in St Andrews in 2010, and a monograph based on my doctoral research, significantly refined and extende, which is described in the publications section.

In the very long term, I would like to investigate the  phenomenology or 'lived experience' of Greek religious landscape. Much work has been done on the topography of religious sites and their role in marking the territory of the Greek poleis. Such work presents the landscape synoptically and schematically, as an objective entity perceived from outside. However, in presenting the landscape in this way, much of what makes the landscape real and meaningful for its inhabitants is discarded in order to present the 'essential' or 'objective' features of the landscape.

This project will extend the broadly phenomenological perspective developed in my current research and apply them to the religious landscape of ancient Greece. It will involve a combination of archaeological and topographic data (excavated sites and surveyed landscapes) with artistic and literary representations of landscap. The overall intention is to explore the ways in which the lived-in environment functioned for its inhabitants as a network of lieux de memoire and a composite record of human activity over successive generations, overlaid with mythological and religious connotations.




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