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Professor Jonathan Miles-Watson

Professor of the Anthropology of Religion

Professor of the Anthropology of Religion in the Department of Theology and Religion+44 (0) 191 33 41659
Deputy Executive Dean (Postgraduate) in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities 


Over the last decade I have (at Durham) delivered modules in the areas of the study of mythology, pilgrimage, fieldwork methodology, religion in South Asia and the anthropology of religion. I have further contributed to modules that explore the anthropology of Islam and worldviews, as well as modules outside the department in related areas, especially anthropology.

I am deeply committed to the idea of teaching as a process of facilitating the development of skill and the new possibilities emerging for teaching, which i was heavily involved with during my time as the department's Director of Education (2018-2021). I believe strongly in the importance of a welcoming learning community that is open to the benefits of diversity and I am keen to support good initiatives in this area. I am a steering committee member of the ProNE BAME WP initiative and an active supporter of the University’s Race Equality Charter bid.

My research has developed over the last 20 years to include religious practice in the Indian Himalayas, faith and civil society, sacred space, ruptured landscapes, pilgrimage, sacred ecologies, material religion, Celtic religions and structuralism. During that period, I have carried out both archival research and extensive fieldwork (in both India and the UK).

I have two live research projects: 1) Return to the Cosmic Mountain [sacred mountains], 2) Transformed Ecologies & Northern Trails [new forms of pilgrimage].

I have active, developing, research interests in a) mixed-faith (dual-faith heritage) identities, b) new mythologies, c) postcolonial ownership of displaced material religion. At least one of these will form into something firmer in the coming months.

I am currently seconded to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities where I serve as Associate Dean (PGR) and the Academic Director of the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Consortium. Through these roles I lead on the development of the Humanities Graduate Research School at Durham and doctoral training across 7 partner universities.
I remain, however, rooted firmly in the department and committed to supporting its important work, while increasing my connectedness to the wider university and academy. I will continue to welcome enquiries from prospective research students throughout my period of secondment and beyond.

Areas open for research supervision include: Anthropology of Religion, Material Religion, Religion in Contemporary India, The Analysis of Mythology, Sacred Landscapes.


Christianity and Belonging in Shimla: Sacred Entanglements of a Himalayan Landscape, ‘Material Religion Series’, Bloomsbury, 2020 (hardback), 2022 (paperback).

The Bloomsbury Reader in the Study of Myth, London: Bloomsbury, with Asimos, V. 2019 (hardback & paperback).

Ruptured Landscapes: Landscape and Identity in Times of Social Change, Landscape Series, Vol. 19, Dordrecht: Springer, with Sooväli, H., Reinert, H, 2015.

Welsh Mythology: A Neo-Structuralist AnalysisNew York: Cambria Press, 2009. 

Theories of Religion: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, UK; New Brunswick (NJ): Rutgers University Press, US, with Kunin, S, 2006 (hardback & paperback).

Journal Articles & Book Chapters

' Pilgrimage, Learning and Everyday life in Lockdown' JCR Speical Edition 'Shifting Grounds: Between Subjectivity and Sovereignty in Pilgrimage', forthcoming.

"Transformed Ecologies & Transformational Saints’ Trails: Exploring New Pilgrimage Routes of North East England". In Lemons, D, Richman, N. TAJA 33 (4), Special Edition Anthropologies of Religious Change, 2022

From the Gods’ Mountains to the Messiah’s Glade: Christian Landscapes of Africa and Asia”,with Quiroz, S. In Bielo, J. Ron, A. Landscapes of Christianity: Destination, Temporality, Transformation, London: Bloomsbury, 2022.

Sacred Landscapes (re)considered’. In Joshi, V., Luithle-Hardenberg, A. (Eds), Religion as Resource: Local and Global Discourses, Volume 1. Tübingen: SFB, 2019.

'Implicit Mythology in the Shimla Hills'. In Miles-Watson, J.; Asimos, V. (Eds) The Bloomsbury Reader in the Study of Myth, London: Bloomsburry, 2019.

‘Teachings of Tara: Sacred place and human wellbeing in the Shimla hills'. Anthropology in Action 23(3): 30-42.Special Edition, ‘The place of 'place' in wellbeing scholarship’, 2016.

‘Ruptured Landscapes, Sacred Spaces and the Stretching of Landscape Capital’. In, Miles-Watson, J., Reinert, H, Sooväli, H. (Eds), Ruptured Landscapes: Landscape and Identity in Times of Social Change, Landscape Series, Vol. 19Dordrecht: Springer, 2015.

Pipe Organs and Satsang: Contemporary Worship in Shimla’s Colonial Churches’ Culture and Religion, Special Edition ‘Politics of Faith in Asia: Local and Global Perspectives of Christianity in Asia’, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2013.

The Cathedral on the Ridge and Other Examples of Implicit Mythology in the Shimla Hills’Suomen Antropologi, Vol. 37, No. 4, 16 pages, 2012.

Conflicts and Connections in the Landscape of the Manimahesh Pilgrimage’. With Miles-Watson, S. Tourism: An International Interdisciplinary Journal. with Vol. 59, No. 3, 2011. 

‘Responding to the Dream of Spiritual Capital’, With Baker C, Implicit Religion, Vol. 14, No.1, 5 pages. . 

Places in Search of a Purpose: Colonial Cathedrals in Postcolonial India’Anthropology News Online, 2011.

‘Ethnographic Insights into Happiness’. In, Steedman, J., Atherton, J., Graham, E. (Eds.), Political Economy, Religion and Wellbeing: The Practices of Happiness. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Ltd, 2010.

‘Faith and Traditional Capitals: Defining the Public Scope of Religious Capital’.With Baker, C. Implicit Religion, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2010

‘Indiascapes: Reflecting on India’. With Korpela, M.Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, Vol. 35, No. 3, 2010.

Anthropological Approaches to Blurred Encounters of Faith’. In, Baker, C., Reader, J. (Eds.), Entering the New Theological Space: Blurred Encounters of Faith, Politics and Community. London: Ashgate, 2009.

‘Structuralism: A Key Methodology for the New Millennium?’Man in  India, Special Edition, ‘Issues and Perspectives in Anthropology Today’, Vol. 89, No. 1-2, 2009.

‘Exploring Secular Spiritual Capital: An Engagement in Religious and Secular Dialogue for a Common Future’, with Baker, C. International Journal of Public Theology, Vol. 2, No. 4, 2008

‘A Structural Analysis of the Miracles in Adomnán's Vita Columbae’Northern Studies, Vol. 38, 2004.

Select Presentations

From Mt Olympus to Mt Meru: Entangled Mountain Myths in Northwest India, Biennial Meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. Toronto, Canada, 2019.

(Re)Encountering orientalism in the exploration of South Asian ReligionsSpalding Symposium on Indian Religions, Durham, 2018.

Moments of "grace": exoreligious experiences of the numinous, Joint Meeting of the Canadian Anthropology Society and the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Ottawa, Canada, 2017.

 One set of virtual footprints: a collective cyber-pilgrimage, Annual Meeting of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, Durham, 2016.

Rupture or Redress?
Processional Ritual, Identity and the Everyday lives of Christians in Africa and Asia (Panel Organiser - with Quiroz S). Annual meeting of the British Association for the Study of Religion, Canterbury, 2015.

 Rupture and Redress in the Anthropology of Christianity: an ethnographic example from the Indian Himalayas (Invited Plenary Address) Ecclesiology and Ethnography, Durham, 2015.

South Asian Christianity and Identity (Re)making (Invited Discussant), Christianity in South Asia: cultural and historical interactions. Wolfson College, Oxford, 2014.

 Sacred Landscape Reconsidered (Invited Plenary Address), Religion as Resource: Local and Global Discourses. Tübingen University, Germany, 2014.

 Worshipping with Ghosts in a North Indian Church, (Invited Talk). Centre for the Study of World Christianity, Edinburgh, 2013.

Sacred Places and Human Wellbeing in Contemporary Shimla, Annual Meeting of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, Edinburgh, 2014.

 Space, Culture and Society (Invited Chair), Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds: 17th World Congress of the IUAES. Manchester, 2013.

Hanuman and the Cathedral: Sacred Landscapes of Shimla, Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, USA, 2012.

The Cathedral on the Ridge: Implicit Myth in the Shimla HillsBiennial Meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. Santa Fe, USA, 2011.

Colonial Religious Landscapes and Postcolonial Christian Worship in India, Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Atlanta, USA, 2010.

Trading Symbolic Capital on the Manimahesh PilgrimageTourism and Seductions of Difference. Lisbon, Portugal, 2010.

Historical Presence in the Contemporary Landscapes of Shimla's churches. Biennial meeting of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, Maynooth, Ireland, 2010.

Spatial Memory & Historical Rupture in the Contemporary Landscape of Shimla’s churches. Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, New Orleans, 2010.

Book Covers


Ruptured Landscapes

Theories of Religion: A Reader: Kunin, Seth Daniel, Miles-Watson, Jonathan: Libros en idiomas extranjeros

Research interests

  • Anthropology of Religion
  • Fieldwork: India; Himalayas; Himachal Pradesh
  • Anthropology of Christianities
  • South Asian Religions
  • Pahari Ritual
  • Material Religion
  • Mythology (Structuralism)


Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Other (Print)



Supervision students