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Faculty of Divinity

Dr Joseph Webster awarded a 2020 Philip Leverhulme Prize

The Faculty of Divinity’s Dr Joseph Webster has been awarded a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize. The prize is one of the most coveted awards for early career academics. It rewards emerging scholars whose work has already had an international impact and whose future career are exceptionally promising.

The prize recognizes Dr Webster’s work in anthropology of religion where he has established himself as one of the leading researchers on contemporary Protestantism in Scotland and the global north. His first book, The Anthropology of Protestantism (2013), studies apocalyptic sign searching among an Exclusive Brethren fishing community in Gamrie, Northeast Scotland. This year he published his second book, The Religion of Orange Politics, that was the first academic study of the Orange Order in Scotland. His research on the Orange Order had a significant role in the repeal of the Scottish Parliament’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The Philip Leverhulme Prize will enable Dr Webster to conduct a new comparative, ethnographic study of contemporary apocalyptic religion in Northern Ireland. The project, entitled 'The Morality of Millenarianism', challenges the two main social scientific theories of millenarianism which understand the motivations of apocalyptic believers as either a symptom of poverty or a form of self-deception. In contrast, Dr Webster examines the morality of millenarianism by examining believer’s theological commitments and ethical actions.

Apocalypticism in Ulster is reaching new heights with the emergence of Covid-19 and growing fears about the return of paramilitary violence post-Brexit. Dr Webster’s research has important contemporary significance and promises to shed light on marginalised and misunderstood communities.