The group brings together academics from the Social Sciences and Humanities who have a shared interest in the empirical study of contemporary religious and spiritual communities.

Follow the links below for information on individual staff and members.


Cristina Rocha 2019

Cristina Rocha
Professor, Director of Religion and Society Cluster

Pentecostal Charismatic Christianities, healing, spirituality, the New Age, Buddhism in the West, and anthropology of religion, globalisation, transnationalism and migration, with a particular interest in the cultural traffic between Japan, Brazil and Australia.
Jan Ali  Jan Ali
HCA-based member
Senior Lecturer / Community and Research Analyst

Contemporary Islamic revivalism; sociology of migration; identity; diaspora communities and transnationalism; social and religious movements; Islam and modernity.
Jennifer-Cheng  Jennifer Cheng
Lecturer in Sociology

Experiences of Muslim minorities in the West and their interaction with issues of racism and anti-racism, Islamophobia, multiculturalism and citizenship.     
Dr Selda Dagistanli, Religion and Society Research Centre

Selda Dagistanli
Director of Academic Programs: Criminology and Policing

Law and order politics and its effects on sentencing and punishment; ethnicity and the law through cultural defence; representations of (sexually) deviant Muslim masculinities; boundaries of inclusion/exclusion and actor networks and agendas in moral panics; populist victims' rights politics.
Dr Steven Drakeley, Religion and Society Research Centre

Steven Drakeley
HCA-based member
Senior Lecturer

Social and political forces based on Islam in the political history of Indonesia since independence; Islam in Southeast Asia; Indonesian history and historiography; Malaysian history.
Kevin Dunn 2019 

Kevin Dunn
Professor / Pro Vice Chancellor Research

Professor in Human Geography and Urban Studies, and commenced at Western in May 2008. He was formerly at the University of NSW (1995-2008), and the University of Newcastle (1991-1995). His areas of research include: immigration and settlement; Islam in Australia; the geographies of racism; and local government and multiculturalism. Recent books include Landscapes: Ways of Imagining the World (2003) and Introducing Human Geography: Globalisation, Difference and Inequality (2000). He is Lead Dean for Global Rankings at Western, Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Provost of the Penrith campus.
Dr Mary Hawkins, Religion and Society Research Centre

Mary Hawkins
Associate Professor / Director of Academic Programs: Sociology and Anthropology

Religious and ethnic diversity in Southeast Asia; cultural traditions of Islam in Indonesia, specifically in Kalimantan; nations, ethnic groups and globalisation.

Dr Milad Milani, Religion and Society Research Centre

Milad Milani
Senior Lecturer

The study of religion, Islam, and Sufism.
Alan Nixon 

Dr Alan Nixon
Postdoc Researcher in Sociology of Religion

Sociology of Nonreligion, Irreligion and Secular Studies; Digital Sociology ; Sociology of Religion
Doctor Helena Onnudottir, Religion and Society Research Centre

Helena Onnudottir
Lecturer / Academic Course Advisor: Social Sciences and Anthropology

Aboriginal Australia (esp. South-East Australia); Indigenous Peoples (culture, history and rights-based matters); Indigenous Peoples and Religious Changes; Gender and Sexuality/ies.
Kathleen Openshaw colour

Kathleen Openshaw
Lecturer Social Sciences

Pentecostalisms from the Global South, local lived migrant religious expressions of globalised Pentecostalisms and material religion

Dr Jan AliAdam Possamai
Professor / Deputy Dean (Research and International)

Sociology of religion; sociological theory; popular culture.
Dr Alphia Possamai-Inesedy. Religion and Society Research Centre

Alphia Possamai-Inesedy
Associate Professor / Director, Sydney City Campus

Sociology of reproduction; sociology of religion
Andrew McWilliam 2020

Professor Andrew McWilliam
Professor of Anthropology

Dr Andrew McWilliam is Professor of Anthropology and a specialist in the study of Insular Southeast Asia. He was worked extensively in Indonesia and East Timor, and maintains active applied research interests in Northern Australia with a focus on native title and indigenous cultural heritage. He is currently editor of The Australian Journal of Anthropology.

Alex Norman

Dr Alex Norman
Senior Lecturer

Tourism Studies, Sociology of Religion, Contemporary Spirituality, Anthropology of Pilgrimage, Photography Theory, New Religious Movements, Women Studies in Religion, History of Religion and Meditation.

Adjunct Members

Alan Black

Alan Black
Adjunct Professor

Religion, spirituality, wellbeing, social capital, and community life.

James Cox 

Professor James Cox
Honorary Professorial Fellow at Edinburgh University (School of Divinity)

Phenomenology of Religion; Theory and Method in the Study of Indigenous Religions; Area specialisations in Indigenous Cultures in Southern Africa, Alaska and Central Australia.

Yaghoob Foroutan

Dr Yaghoob Foroutan
Adjunct Fellow

Muslim Demography, Religious Identity, Religion and Gender

Bagher Ghobary

Professor Bagher Ghobary Bonab
Adjunct Professor

Prof. Bagher Ghobary Bonab is a visiting scholar from University of Tehran, and a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1993. His research interests include Special Education, Methods of Instruction for Individuals with Disabilities, Spiritual Coping Strategies for Parents of Exceptional Children, Spiritual Intelligence, and Spiritual Development of Exceptional Children. He is also interested in Spirituality of Normal Individuals, especially youths and adolescents, Spiritual Skill Development, qualitative, quantitative, mixed method research, and single subject studies. He has a keen interest in assessment and evaluation techniques.

Prof Julia Day Howell

Julia Day Howell
Adjunct Professor

Religion, society and modernity; Indonesian studies; Sociology of Islam; Sufism; Asian New Religious Movements in Western societies; Spiritual practices and religious experiences.

Mark Hutchinson

Mark Hutchinson
Professional Historian

History of higher education; globalisation of Pentecostal and Charismatic movements; history of global Evangelicalism; Italian migration history; studies in comparative evangelicalism.
Sherene Idriss 

Sherene Idriss
Adjunct Researcher

Youth subcultures; intersections between religion, gender and identity practices.

Dr Tony Jinks, Religion and Society Research Centre

Anthony Jinks
Adjunct Fellow

Psychology of paranormal experience; Psychology of  Popular Religion; Research methods and statistics.
Pedram Khosronejad 

Dr Pedram Khosronejad (opens in a new window)
Visiting Adjunct Associate Professor

Research and teaching has been interdisciplinary in scope, crosscutting sociocultural anthropology, visual anthropology and Shiite Islam. Interests include questions of war, martyrdom, and memory; sanctity, sacred topography, and pilgrimage; sacred art, material religion, and visual piety; gender, sexuality, and race. In particular, explore the ways in which religion, rituals and ceremonies, and material culture are bound up in as well as influenced and changed by wider political, social, and cultural trends.

Stephane Lathion

Stephane Lathion (opens in a new window)
Visiting Fellow

Muslims in Europe (identity, citizenship, deradicalisation, "imam" training course); comparative Study of Religions; religious teaching in Public Schools (what, who, how and within which framework).

Geir Presterudstuen, Religion and Society Research Centre

Geir Presterudstuen
Adjunct Fellow, University of BergenDepartment of Social Anthropology

Anthropology of Religious and Ritual Practice; Fiji; Pacific Island Communities; Ethnography; Gender and Sexualities; Post-Colonial Theory; Economic Anthropology; Monster anthropology.  (former WSU Lecturer in Anthropology)

Dr Arskal Salim, Religion and Society Research Centre

Arskal Salim
Senior Research Lecturer

Legal anthropology; Islamic legal theory; law and politics in Indonesian society; comparative constitutional law in Muslim countries; legal practices in Muslim communities.

Firdaus Wajdi  Dr Firdaus Wajdi
Adjunct Researcher

Religion and Globalization, Indonesian Muslims in Australia, Transnational Religious Movement, Sufism in Indonesian Context, Islam in Indonesia, and Religion and Local Cultures.
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