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Dr Charlotte Hardman

Honorary Fellow(1 Oct 2022 - 30 Sept 2025)

Honorary Fellow
(1 Oct 2022 - 30 Sept 2025) in the Department of Theology and Religion


Now working part-time, I have been a member of the Department in Durham since 2004, joining Professor Douglas Davies and Dr Mathew Guest in the field of The Study of Religion. Our interests lie in the academic study of religion as a phenomenon from different perspectives and methodologies, including the anthropological, the sociological, the psychological and the theological. I contribute to the compulsory Stage One module 'The Study of Religion' and also teach individual modules. I offer a module on 'Shamanism East and West' to Second Years and a module on 'Religious Innovations'. The modules I teach give students the possibility of exploring religions other than those that are mainstream, and encourage them to question their cultural assumptions in a number of areas.

My career as an anthropologist has led me onto various paths before joining the Department. I have been an anthropological researcher and a consultant; for example, a researcher of children in playgrounds, and a consultant for a popular book on the Himalayas. Working as an anthropologist in Nepal for a period of over five years, I carried out fieldwork in the remote East of the country (South of Mount Makalu) and became involved in an overseas development project (US/AID: Nepal Government), looking at the Status of Women in Nepal; and I worked as anthropological consultant in the making of an epic ethnographic film by Professor Mark Oppitz about shamans in West Nepal for German television. Later on I worked for INFORM (Information Network Focus on New Religions) researching into new religious movements and giving advice to concerned relatives of people involved in 'cults'. For 12 years I then taught in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Newcastle.

My research interests cover three major areas: the anthropology of children, the anthropology of Nepal, and the Anthropology/Sociology of Religion. My research can in part be understood in terms of the umbrella term I coined in the 1970s, and which I called 'muted groups', that is, groups whose medium of articulation is not easily grasped by other sectors of the population; groups who are marginal or submissive to the dominant power group - either in terms of age (children) or traditions and habits (Lohorung Rai in Nepal) or religious acceptability (religious cults and shamans). My early research in the late 70s suggested that there should be 'an anthropology of children' and that children should be studied as a group in its own right. My research in Nepal also focused on a group that had been marginalised, and it involved an approach that had, at that time, rarely been applied in the field. The Rai 'tribes' of East Nepal do not fit easily within the dominant 'Hindu state religion' and are looked down on by other groups who consider them matwali or 'alcohol drinkers'. They were considered then by many Nepalis as unworthy of study. My book 'Other Worlds: Notions of Self and Emotion among the Lohorung Rai', focusses on their ethnopsychology and their religion, looking at Lohorung understanding of what it means to be a person and to understand the links between their understanding of 'self', their ancestors, their emotions and culture.

My research on new religions and 'alternative spiritualities', gives them serious attention as a feature of contemporary society and popular culture. My research has latterly focused on pagans (see 'Paganism Today'/'Pagan Pathways') and shamans of the modern Western world; and on children in new religions, listening to their perspectives of their parents' religions and the extent to which they are 'active agents' or socialised into following their parents' religion. Some of this research can be found in 'Children in New Religions' (co-edited with Susan Palmer). My present research on shamanism and neo-shamanism ('Shamanism: the Western Quest for an Esoteric Spirituality') explores the ways in which shamanism is a Western invention; how shamanism has been created, imagined, invented and re-created, emerging over the centuries from the currents of thought to be found in early travellers' reports, scientists documenting their findings in Siberia, the ideologies of esotericism, transcendentalism, romanticism and the Beat Generation to become a significant feature in the contemporary Western imagination. Within Western practices to be found in the UK and North America we can see an image of the Other - the exotic, the 'truly spiritual', a romantic view of what has existed in Asia, North and South America and elsewhere but which in many places is disappearing, or is being re-invented in response to Western material appropriation.

My postgraduate research students have covered a variety of topics, such as 'Gender issues in Druidry and Heathenism'; 'Christian and New Age Notions of the Self'; 'Exploring the Supernatural through the Spiritualist Church'; 'Living in Community'; 'Zen in the Art of Politics'; Faith Development theories and the faithing of Chinese women in Hong Kong', 'Tibetan Architecture and the embodiment of ethnic process'. I welcome discussion with any prospective postgraduate student wishing to work in areas covered by, or related to, my research.