Professor Matthew Engelke

Professor Matthew Engelke


Department of Anthropology

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OLD 6.12
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About me

Matthew Engelke is a Professor  in the Department of Anthropology. He also co-ordinates the School’s Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion. Prof Engelke was educated at the universities of Chicago and Virginia. He joined LSE in 2002. 

Prof Engelke’s research focuses in the broadest sense on the connections between religion and culture, primarily in Africa and Britain. He has conducted in-depth fieldwork on an African Church in Zimbabwe, evangelical Christians in England, and, most recently, secular humanists in Britain. Throughout this work, he has examined such issues as the importance of textual authority within religious communities; the dynamics of conversion and belief; religion and material culture; religion and media; the role of religion in public life; ritual; and conceptions of the secular and humanism. In addition to these fieldwork-based projects, Prof Engelke has also conducted research in the history of anthropology. His research has been funded by, among other sources, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Commission, the British Academy, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the LSE’s Annual Fund. 

Prof Engelke runs Prickly Paradigm Press  with Marshall Sahlins. He was deputy editor of the Journal of Religion in Africa from 2006-2010, and editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute from 2010-2013; he currently serves on the advisory boards of the Journal of Southern African Studies and Religion and Society. He is an Academic Governor of LSE and a member of the LSE’s Ethics Policy Committee and Finance Committee. He has served on the Advisory Board of the LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights since 2002.

Beyond the School, he has been a Council Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute and is currently Vice-Chair of the governing body of a primary school in Southwest London. He has acted as an expert witness in over thirty asylum appeal cases for Zimbabweans in the UK. In 2012 he participated in Tino Seghal’s Turbine Hall installation at the Tate Modern, “These Associations,” which was nominated for the 2013 Turner Prize.

Prof Engelke is the author of two books. His writing has also appeared in numerous academic journals and edited collections, as well as on-line for the Guardian, the Timesand Tate Modern, Public Books, and the Immanent Frame.

Expertise Details

Zimbabwe; England; Christianity and the Bible; semiotics; materiality; public religion; history of anthropology; human rights.

Selected publications

2015. Secular Shadows: African, Immanent, Post-colonial. Critical Research on Religion3(1) 86-100.

2015. The Coffin Question: Death and Materiality in Humanist Funerals. Material Religion11(1): 26-49. 

2015. Humanist Ceremonies: The Case of Non-Religious Funerals in England. In The Wiley Blackwell Handbook on Humanism, edited by Andrew Copson and A.C. Grayling. Oxford: Wiley. 

2014. Christianity and the Anthropology of Secular Humanism. Current Anthropology55(S10): S292-S301. 

2013. God’s Agents: Biblical Publicity in Contemporary England. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2013. Economies and Ecologies of the Sacred in Zimbabwe. In Protecting Nature, Saving Creation: Ecological Conflicts, Religious Passions, and Political Quandaries, edited by Pasquale Gagliardi, Anne Marie Reijnen, and Philipp Valentini. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

2012. Angels in Swindon: Public Religion and Ambient Faith in England. American Ethnologist 39(1): 150-165

2012. Material Religion. In The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, edited by Robert A. Orsi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2011. The Semiotics of Relevance: Campaigning for the Bible in Greater Manchester. Anthropological Quarterly 84(3): 685-716.

2011. Media, Mediation, Religion. (Debate with Charles Hirschkind) Social Anthropology19: 90-102.

2010. Number and the Imagination of Global Christianity: Or, Mediation and Immediacy in the Work of Alain Badiou. In Global Christianity, Global Critique. Special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 109(4), edited by Matthew Engelke and Joel Robbins. Durham: Duke University Press. (See The Immanent Frame's book blog on Global Christianity, Global Critique at

2010. Religion and the Media Turn: A Review Essay. American Ethnologist 37(2): 371-377.

2010. Radical Orthodoxy’s New Home? The Immanent Frame. Available at

2010. Past Pentecostalism: Rupture, Realignment, and Everyday Life in Pentecostal and African Independent Churches. Africa 80(2): 177-199.

2009. Strategic Secularism: Bible Advocacy in England. Social Analysis 53(1): 39-54

2009. Reading and time: Two approaches to the materiality of Scripture. Ethnos 74(2): 151-174.

2009. (editor) The objects of evidence: Anthropological approaches to the production of knowledge. Oxford: Blackwell. (Originally published in 2008 as the third special issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute).

2007. A problem of presence: Beyond scripture in an African church. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
Winner of the 2008 Clifford Geertz Prize, Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Winner of the 2009 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing.

2006. (co-editor with Matt Tomlinson) The limits of meaning: Case studies in the anthropology of Christianity. Oxford: Berghahn Books. 

2005. The early days of Johane Masowe: Self-doubt, uncertainty, and religious transformation. Comparative Studies in Society and History 47(4): 781-808.

2005. Sticky subjects, sticky objects: The substance of African Christian healing. In Materiality, Daniel Miller (ed). Durham: Duke University Press. 

2004. Text and performance in an African church: The Book, "live and direct." American Ethnologist 31(1): 76-91.

2004. "The endless conversation": Fieldwork, writing, and the marriage of Victor and Edith Turner. In Significant others: Interpersonal and professional commitments in anthropology, Richard Handler (ed). [History of Anthropology volume 10] Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

2004. Discontinuity and the discourse of conversion. Journal of Religion in Africa 34(1/2): 82-109. 

2002. The problem of belief: Evans-Pritchard and Victor Turner on "the inner life." Anthropology Today 18(6): 3-6.

1999. "We wondered what human rights he was talking about": Human rights, homosexuality, and the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. Critique of Anthropology 19(3): 289-313.

My research

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