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Dr Joseph Webster

Dr Joseph Webster

Lecturer in the Study of Religion

Fellow and DoS in Anthropology, Downing

Graduate Tutor, Downing

Joseph Webster is accepting applications for PhD students.

Office Phone: 01223 763093


Joseph Webster took up his post in the Divinity Faculty in 2019. Previous to this he held the position of Lecturer in Anthropology at Queen's University Belfast (2013-19), and Isaac Newton - Graham Robertson Research Fellow in Social Anthropology and Sociology at Downing College, Cambridge (2011-13). His MA(Hons) in Sociology and Social Anthropology, and his MRes and PhD in Social Anthropology were all obtained at the University of Edinburgh (2003-12).


Subject area and speciality

Religious Studies specialists:

The Anthropology of Religion

Contemporary Protestantism

Apocalypticism and Millenarianism

Religion and Hate

Research Interests

Dr Webster's primary research interest concerns the Anthropology of Religion, with a particular focus on Protestantism in Scotland and the global north.

His first monograph, The Anthropology of Protestantism (2013), is an ethnography of apocalyptic sign searching within an Exclusive Brethren fishing community in Northeast Scotland. This book was featured on BBC Radio 4, in an episode of Thinking Allowed

His second monograph, The Religion of Orange Politics (2020), is an ethnographic account of ethno-religious nationalism within the Orange Order, Scotland's largest Protestant-only fraternity. Specific research interests include:


Protestant fundamentalism, millenarianism, apocalypticism

Ethno-religious nationalism, unionism, loyalism, the Orange Order

Personhood, fraternity, hate

Sectarianism, football fandom, and debates about free speech

North Atlantic, Britain, Scotland, Northern Ireland

The relationship between Anthropology and Theology


Research Supervision

Dr Webster would be interested in supervising doctoral students whose work uses ethnographic methods to research any of the themes listed above.



A6 - Understanding Contemporary Religion

D2b - Apocalypse

Part II - Anthropology-Theology Joint track in Modern Religion Seminar

MPhil - Contemporary Religious Conflict: Ethnographic Approaches


Other Professional Activities

Connected to his research on ethno-religious nationalism, Dr Webster has undertaken work on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. He has acted as an expert witness to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee, giving evidence in support of repeal.

His research has also been profiled in the media, including in the Times, Scotsman, Herald, Irish News, Sun, and Express newspapers, as well as on STV's Scotland Tonight. Examples include:

Times: Statues are worth both defending and vandalising (op-ed: 18/06/20)

Times: Whipping and coffins at lodge ritual (article: 18/06/20)

Times: Banning sectarian parades would only deepen the hatred (op-ed: 03/09/19)

Times: Banning parades after Govan violence 'deeply problematic' (article: 02/09/19)

Sun: 'Sectarian' singing bring fans together leading expert claims (article: 10/03/18) 

Key Publications


Webster, J. (2020). The Religion of Orange Politics: Protestantism and Fraternity in Contemporary Scotland

Webster, J. (2013). The Anthropology of Protestantism: Faith and Crisis among Scottish Fishermen



Webster, J. (2020). 'Embodied Apocalypse: Or the Native Cosmology of Late Modern Social Theory' in Anthropology & Medicine.

Webster, J. (2020). 'Prosperity Pentecostalism as Theological Presentism' (Comment) in Current Anthropology 61(1): 71-72.

Webster, J. (2020). 'Christian Denominations as Social Institutions: An Afterward' in Anthropological Quarterly 92(4): 1123-1134.

Webster, J. (2019). 'Whose sins do the Brethren confess?' in Ethnos.

Webster, J. (2017). 'Praying for Salvation: A Map of Relatedness' in Religion 47(1): 19-34.

Webster, J. (2013). 'The Eschatology of Global Warming in a Scottish Fishing Village' in Cambridge Anthropology 31(1): 68-84.

Webster, J. (2012). 'The Immanence of Transcendence: God and the Devil on the Aberdeenshire Coast' in Ethnos 78(3): 380-402.

Webster, J. (2008). 'Establishing the 'Truth' of the Matter: Confessional Reflexivity as Introspection and Avowal' in Psychology and Society 1(1): 65-76.


Book Chapters

Hickman, J. and Webster, J. (In Press). 'Millenarianism' in The Oxford Handbook of the Anthropology of Religion by Robbins, J. and Coleman, S. (eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Webster, J. (In Press). 'Approaches through Materiality' in The Oxford Handbook of the Anthropology of Religion by Robbins, J. and Coleman, S. (eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Webster, J. (In Press). 'Geography as Eschatology: Prophecy Fulfilment on Land and at Sea' in Landscapes of Christianity by Bielo, J. and Ron, A. (eds). London: Bloomsbury

Webster, J. (2018). 'The Exclusive Brethren Doctrine of Separation: An Anthropology of Theology in Theologically Engaged Anthropology by Lemons, D. (ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Webster, J. (2015). 'Objects of Transcendence: Scots-Protestantism and an Anthropology of Things' in Material Religion in Modern Britain by Jones, T. and Matthews-Jones, L. (eds.) New York: Palgrave.




Current students and supervisors can access the Faculty’s Moodle page by clicking on the image below.