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Kim Knott supervises 6 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Professor Kim Knott


Kim Knott

Lancaster University

County South



Tel: +44 1524 5 93428

Office Hours:

Lent and Summer terms: Wednesday 2-3 pm, or email for an appointment

Research overview

I have developed a spatial methodology for contextualising religion, examining its engagement with other social and cultural institutions and issues, and for "breaking open the secular". I have used it to examine religious and secular beliefs and values in diverse locations. I am currently a Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellow researching the role of ideologies, beliefs and commitments in people's motivations and justifications for violent and non-violent action at times of risk and uncertainty. My research interests include the theorization of space and place; the interrogation of religious and political spaces; spatial metaphors in religious and political discourse; the relationship between religion and non-religion; the 'secular sacred'; media representations of religion; and religion and its intersections with migration, diasporas, diversity and ethnicity.

PhD supervision

Potential Doctoral Proposals

I have supervised over thirty research students on a wide variety of subjects, including sociology of religion, religion, place and space, modern Hindu movements, religion and public life, gender and religion, religion and violence, and religious identities. At present I supervise students working on different ways of being religious in the British city, the transmission of religion to young British Sikhs, ordination among British Buddhist women, and leadership issues in the Hare Krishna Movement.

I welcome applications from potential doctoral candidates researching religious and secular relationships; religion, diasporas and migration; Hindu and Sikh diaspora communities; media and religion; ethnographies of either secular culture and belief or gender and destiny; and from those wishing to apply spatial approaches to studying religion.

Current Teaching

I teach on the first year module 'Religions in the Modern World' (Introduction and Hinduism). In recent years I have taught an MA module on 'Interrogating Political and Religious Spaces', and modules on religions in modern Britain, religion and media, religious mapping, and religion and society (research process and methods).

Research Interests

I am particularly interested in how religion, the secular and post-secular are constructed and represented in public discourse, in what separates them and what they have in common. In recent articles I have identified some theoretical and methodological resources for breaking open the secular and for exploring the boundary between religion and non-religion. I have discussed the capacity of the concept of the 'sacred' to operate across this boundary with reference to those deeply-held beliefs and values that are non-negotiable.

Where and how religion is located in public life and how religious and other ideological bodies negotiate space for themselves are matters of broad public as well as academic concern. I have contributed to recent discussions about religious identities in superdiverse Britain. Read, listen and watch the Faith Debates organised by the 'Religion and Society' Programme in partnership with the think tank, Theos.

Global Uncertainties: ideologies, beliefs and commitments

This project focuses on the 'The role of ideology, belief and commitment in motivations, justifications and catalysts for action in the face of uncertainty. It asks how they are employed in decision-making and subsequent public actions, both violent and nonviolent and, building on the work of Matthew Francis (Senior Research Associate on the project) considers the relationships between various types and levels of ideology, belief and commitment and the transition to such actions. We work closely with other researchers and stakeholders to model their role and to engage it with academic and public debates on motivations for terrorism, cyber crime, financial risk, regional instability etc. For further information, see http://www.globaluncertainties.org.uk/about/GU-fellows/Knott.aspx, and http://www.radicalisationresearch.org

Religion, space and the secular

Since 2005 I have published on religion and spatial issues, including a book, The Location of Religion: A Spatial Analysis (Equinox 2005), a special issue of Temenos: The Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion, various book and journal articles, two international conference panels, and a research project funded by the AHRC, 'Locating religion in the fabric of the secular'.

The first stage of the research focused on developing a spatial methodology for the study of religions (which has now been used extensively by research students in the UK, northern Europe, Canada and the US). The second stage involved applying this methodology to the location of religion in secular locations, including the left hand, a health centre, school, urban landscapes, media discourse, everyday ritual and academic disciplines, and to the relationship between the religious, secular and postsecular. Arising from this research, I have written articles on the spatial turn in the study of religion, the importance of place and space, religious mapping and other spatial methods, and the geography of religion.

A collaborative project, Iconic Religion: How Imaginaries of Religious Encounter Structure Urban Space (funded by the HERA Cultural Encounters Programme, with colleagues at Ruhr University, Germany and University of Utrecht in the Netherlands) began in September 2013. Dr Steph Berns is the Research Associate for this project. The UK case study is focused on sites in central London and Southwark.

Media portrayals of religion

A further research project, within the AHRC/ESRC 'Religion and Society' Programme, 'Media portrayals of religion and the secular sacred' (2008-10), replicated research I conducted in the 1980s, and took forward my interest in examining the 'sacred' as a theoretical resource for crossing the boundary between religious and secular concerns. Media Portrayals of Religion and the Secular Sacred: Representation and Change (co-authored with Elizabeth Poole and Teemu Taira) was published by Ashgate in 2013, in addition to various book chapters. This research has generated a collaborative network funded by the ESRC (with Lori Beaman, Ottawa University, 2012-14), two internships, consultations and briefings, a roundtable of media professionals, and research-led teaching on religion and media. You can listen to a Religion and Society podcast in which I discuss the project, or consult a briefing paper on our findings produced by Engage: Media Awareness, Public Participation. A network of researchers from the UK, Canada, Australia and Finland are currently funded by ESRC on the International Partnership and Network scheme to develop research and impact on 'Media, Religion and Diversity'. We are currently running a small-scale cross-national comparative study on 'Religion on an Ordinary Day' in selected newspapers.

Diasporas, migration and identities

As director of this interdisciplinary research programme (funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council) I was responsible for creating a coherent programme, overseeing the commissioning process, the monitoring of the programme's forty-nine projects and networks, and the running of academic and stakeholder events in relation to these themes. The role also involved collaboration with the cultural sector, media, government, and community bodies, and working with other European centres and funding agencies. Diasporas, Migration and Identities: Final Director's Report is available on www.diasporas.ac.uk, and Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities, co-edited with Seán McLoughlin, was published in 2010 (Zed Books). The programme concluded with a Programme Directors' Impact Fellowship, in association with which I produced www.movingpeoplechangingplaces.org and an accompanying book, Moving People, Changing Places (CRP, 2011).

I have worked in this field since my doctoral studies, and have written on religion, ethnicity, migration and identity. Until leaving the University of Leeds in 2012, I directed the Community Religions Project (CRP) and supervised student teamwork projects on the 'Religious Mapping of Leeds'.

Earlier research

In the past I researched and published extensively in the fields of modern Hindu Studies, including Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 1998, 2000), new religious movements, including My Sweet Lord: The Hare Krishna Movement (Thorsons, 1986), religions in modern Britain, including Hinduism in Leeds: Religious Practice in Indian Hindu Communities and Modern Hindu Movements (CRP, 1986). I also worked on women and religion, and hope in due course to return to an earlier project on gender, destiny and agency.

Additional Information

I participate in a large programme of research on 'Religion and Diversity', funded by the SSHRC in Canada and hosted at the University of Ottawa, and have been an international advisor in international projects on 'The Religious Lives of Migrant Minorities', 'Religious Pluralisation in Europe', 'Living with Difference', and 'Multi-Faith Spaces'.

I am a member of the Strategic Advisory Board of the UK Research Councils' programme on 'Connected Communities', and was previously on the working group for AHRC/ESRC 'Religion and Society', and the commissioning panel and advisory board for ESRC/AHRC/FCO 'New Security Challenges: Radicalisation - A Critical Reassessment'.

I am currently on the editorial boards of the following books and journals: Religion and Global Migrations (Palgrave Macmillan); Religion; South Asian Diaspora; Journal of Contemporary Religion; Fieldwork in Religion.

I was General Secretary of the European Association for the Study of Religion (2005-10) and, before that, Membership Secretary (2000-04), and a member of the International Committee of the International Association for the History of Religions. I was President of the British Association for the Study of Religions in the 1990s. I remain a member of these organisations, and of the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group, and - from time to time - of the American Academy of Religion.

Public Engagement and Impact

Kim Knott has worked with the Citizenship Foundation, Runnymede Trust and National Maritime Museum to disseminate research from the AHRC Diasporas, Migration and Identities Programme (which she directed from 2005-11).  A website and popular book on Moving People, Changing Places were produced, including resources for teachers and pupils of Citizenship, History and Geography (Key Stages 3/4):www.movingpeoplechangingplaces.org. She has contributed to events organised by the Institute of Ideas, as a panellist at the 'Global Uncertainties Question Time' in 2010, and as a judge for the regional and national finals of ‘Debating Matters’, adjudicating on public debates among young people on open border policies for migrants and banning the burqa. In 2012 she was an invited contributor to the Westminster Faith Debates, speaking on religious identity in super-diverse Britain (organised by the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme with Theos): http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates/identity. She is a member of Runnymede Trust’s academic forum, and the Advisory Board of an International Alert project, ‘Promoting Diaspora Voices’.

She has worked with other external partners including the Home Office, Tate Britain, NHS Leeds Chaplaincy, Yorkshire and Humber Assembly, Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum, Leeds Neighbourhood Policing Team, Leeds Church Institute, West Yorkshire Prison Chaplaincy Service, Active Faith Communities Programme, and the International Organisation for Migration. More recently she contributed to a feasibility consultation on the formation of an independent Centre for Media Religion, to data gathering on the representation of Islam by the campaigning organisation, Engage, for the Leveson Enquiry on media standards, and to equality and diversity training for English Heritage and public bodies in Yorkshire and Humberside. She co-founded Arts Engaged, a research innovation and impact centre at the University of Leeds, before joining Lancaster University in 2012.


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