Vernacular religion and contemporary spirituality
: studies in religious experience and expression

  • Marion Bowman

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This submission for a PhD by publication is based on works which adopt a fieldwork-based approach to the study of contemporary religion.

    The focus of the publications is religion as it is lived and experienced, not religion as it is defined by texts or as represented by authority figures. The studies examine how people interpret, act out and adapt their beliefs in a variety of spiritual milieux; the emphasis is on the experience and perceptions both of those within traditional belief communities, as well as the increasing numbers whose spiritual lives lie in less established, informal groupings.

    The methodology combines a phenomenological approach to the study of religion, and insights and research technologies derived from Folklore Studies. The focus of the publications has been the experiential dimension of religion, involving considerable amounts of participant observation and interview; the work has also taken into consideration the material, cultural tradition and popular culture aspects of religion. By these means, it has been possible to provide original data on how people experience the spiritual dimension of their lives in a variety of traditions.

    The scope of the submission is broad, for the publications explore vernacular religion and contemporary spirituality in a range of settings, but as a body the work is clearly linked by method and approach. Of particular value for the understanding of contemporary religion is the work on Glastonbury as a multivalent pilgrimage destination and on Bath as an exemplar of trends in contemporary religiosity, on healing as a form of non-aligned spirituality, on the implications of the contemporary spiritual marketplace, and on the spiritual aspects of the contemporary Celtic revival in Christianity, New Age and Paganism.
    Date of Award1998
    Original languageEnglish


    • Religion and sociology
    • religion

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