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Workshop on 'New Spiritualities'

Workshop on 'New Spiritualities'

17 December 11

Co-sponsored by the AHRC-ESRC Religion and Society programme together with the Human Geography Research Group, University of Glasgow, and the Urban Studies Foundation, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences


This event was a small workshop on the theme of ‘new spiritualities’, organised by members of the project on ‘The everyday urban spiritual: placing spiritual practices in context?’ funded under the auspices of the AHRC-ESRC Religion and Society Programme. The rationale was to convene a small group of scholars who have contributed over recent years to debates about so-called ‘new spiritualities’, seeking to create dedicated time for discussion in a relaxed and convivial setting. Indeed, the vision was something more akin to a seminar, a conversazione even, than a formal conference, although participants were asked to prepare a small ‘presentation’ (a 10-20-minute reflection to speak in a round-table format, supported if appropriate with a PPT or other media). The only more formal presentation was from the organisers of the event, reporting on their own research, with the objective that this presentation could serve as an entrée to the discussion-based heart of the event.

Event themes: some questions?

  • How might we best characterise (conceptualise, represent, evaluate) ‘new spiritualities’, and ‘new spiritual practices’, as they manifest today (particularly in the UK but with recognition of a wider, global context)?
  • To what extent might we say that there has been a ‘new spiritual revolution’ over the past 15-20 years in the UK/the West, and what trajectories might be envisage, with what implications?
  • What are the relations of ‘new spiritualities’ to other features of the contemporary religious landscape in the UK/West, notably the relations with established (and alternative forms of) Christianity but also with other formalised religions?
  • What are the demographic, sociological and cultural profiles of ‘new spiritual belief and practice’, and what implications might be drawn?
  • What are the social geographies of ‘new spiritualities’: where are they held and practised at a range of spatial scales, notably at the scale of the ‘city’, ‘neighbourhood’ and (type) of venue (private/public, indoors/outdoors, ‘religious’/secular, etc.)?
  • What are the motivations and impulsions leading people to ‘new spiritualities’, and to what extent might they reflect failings and limits not only in organised religion but maybe too in mainstream forms of medical care or therapeutic intervention?

Podcasts and other supporting materials

The event was audio-recorded and, on listening back to the event, it was decided that there could be merit in making available a complete audio-record of the whole event in the form of a series of podcasts associated with different segments of the day’s proceedings.  Hence, what can now be found on this website are links to podcasts, derived from the proceedings of six sessions [A to F]. Some of these sessions have links to other materials such as mini-presentations and, in one case, a working paper with workshop materials embedded within it. 

(Note regarding the quality of the recordings: this was a round-table event, and there is some variability in clarity among the different voices, especially in discussion sections. At some points there is also noise from adjacent building works.)


Session A: Introduction

Each of the participants introduces themselves, giving brief biographical context and explaining their interest in the problematic of ‘new spiritualities’.

Listen here: 12.06 mins


Session B: ‘The everyday urban spiritual: new spiritualities and new times and spaces’

This session centres on a formal presentation by Chris Philo, the project PI [Principal Investigator], of the conceptual basis underlying the funded project (‘The everyday urban spiritual: placing spiritual practices in context?’), touching on questions of method and then leading into a discussion of certain findings.  The latter was deliberately opened out into a genuine workshop format, inviting participants to respond to some empirical ‘data’ presented by Chris, the result being a substantial amount of input from participants (much of which has been invaluable in assisting the project team in its envisaging of what the ‘data’ is revealing).  Accompanying the podcast, listeners are invited also to view a PowerPoint presentation accompanying the podcast and a working paper, effectively a draft of the formal presentation, which also has the ‘data’ for the workshop embedded within it.

Section 1: Chris Philo begins presentation, leading to discussion

Listen & view the PowerPoint presentation here: 30.40 mins

Section 2: Louisa Cadman introduces how the research was conducted, and Chris Philo continues his presentation.

Listen here: 18.02 mins

Section 3: Concluding discussion.

Listen here: 22.11 mins


Session C: ‘New, old, alternative and non-spiritualities’

This session includes mini-presentations from five of the participants, which can loosely be characterised as offering critical, historical and immersive-qualitative engagements with ‘new spiritualities’.  Each mini-presentation is followed by substantial discussion.

Section 1: Jeremy Carrette and Richard King: Selling spirituality: the marketisation of religion

Listen & view the PowerPoint presentation here: 24.24 mins

Section 2: Steve Sutcliffe: The New Age movement in historical context

Listen here:  16.17 mins

Section 3: Betsy Olson: Old spiritualities, non-spiritualities, youth and place

Listen here: 20.56 mins

Section 4: Giselle Vincett: Alternative spiritualities and marginal identities

Listen here: 18.40 mins


Session D: ‘New spiritualities: spaces, places, landscapes, queering’

This session includes mini-presentations from four of the participants, the first three of which speak directly to matters of the spaces, places and landscapes enrolled in ‘new spiritualities’ or in reworking ‘old spiritualities’, while the fourth explores the ‘queering’ of spiritualities (and spiritual spaces) of all kinds.  These mini-presentations are not directly followed by discussion, but substantial discussion, relating to all four mini-presentations, is then found in the final podcast.

Section 1: Avril Maddrell: Tapping the spiritual landscape: pilgrimage walks in the Isle of Man

Listen & view the PowerPoint presentation here: 16.55 mins

Section 2: Jenny Blain: Landscape, meaning, paganisms and ancestors

Listen & view the PowerPoint presentation here: 16.36 mins

Section 3: Ronan Foley: Deep mappings of spirituality: energy, reach and place

Listen & view the presentation here: 10.04 mins

Section 4: Sally Munt: Queer spiritual spaces

Listen & view the PowerPoint presentation here: 13.44 mins


Session E: ‘Where now for new spiritualities?’

This session is devoted to Linda Woodhead’s reflections on the workshop, and more broadly on the intellectual and ethico-political challenges inherent in tackling the vexed phenomenon of ‘new spiritualities’.

Listen here: 12.17 mins


Session F: ‘Final discussion’

This podcast covers the final discussion, which initially responded to the mini-presentations in podcast D, before widening into a discussion prompted by Linda Woodhead’s comments in podcast E, as well as broadening still further to encapsulate a range of further issues pertinent to the understanding of ‘new spiritualities’.

Listen here: 35.28 mins


Avril Maddrell (University of the West of England)

Betsy Olson (University of Edinburgh)

Chris Philo (University of Glasgow)

Ebba Högstrom (Royal Stockholm Institute of Technology)

Geraldine Perriam (University of Glasgow)

Giselle Vincett (University of Edinburgh)

Hayden Lorimer (University of Glasgow)

Jennifer Lea (University of Loughborough)

Jenny Blain (Sheffield Hallam University)

Jeremy Carrette (University of Kent)

Jonny Crossan (University of Glasgow)

Linda Woodhead (University of Lancaster)

Louisa Cadman (University of Glasgow)

Richard King (University of Glasgow)

Ronan Foley (Maynooth, National University of Ireland)

Sally Munt (University of Sussex)

Steven Sutcliffe (University of Edinburgh)


Chris Philo, PI on the project (Christopher.Philo@glasgow.gla.ac.uk)

Louisa Cadman, RA on the project (Louisa.Cadman@ges.gla.ac.uk)

Jennifer Lea, External Consultant on project (J.Lea@lboro.ac.uk)

For anyone interested in further information about our own project, please visit the project website at:



Podcasts recorded by the University of Glasgow Audio Visual Services, with special thanks to Steven Lawrence. They were edited and mastered by D.P. Johnson at The Audio Lounge, Glasgow. Very sizeable thanks are due in these connections. Thanks are also due to Rebecca Catto and Norman Winter for the final work of finally organising and linking all of the materials for this website.

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