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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Dr Iain Edgar, BA, MPhil, PhD

Emeritus Reader in the Department of Anthropology

(email at


Iain Edgar's research has focussed mostly on the anthropology of the imagination and particularly on culture and dreaming. His most recent study has been on the true dream tradition in Islam, and elsewhere. He has completed a study, part funded by the British Academy small research grants scheme, of the inspirational role of true dreams, al-ruya, in the motivation of militant jihad by Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and followers. He published a book, 'The Dream in Islam: from Qur'anic tradition to Jihadist Inspiration', in 2011 (paperback edition 2016 with a new chapter on Islamic State dreaming) with Berghahn Books, Oxford, UK. Iain has continued his study of Jihad and dreams with a new focus on Islamic State (IS) in the following articles, 'The Dreams of Islamic State', in the journal, Perspectives on Terrorism, 2015 vol.9, issue 4; another article, ‘Islamic State and Dream Warfare’ in Sustainable Security 2016, and a short piece in CREST 4 p.23 (see below) in 2017.

Wikipedia entry:

Media and Public Impact CV

Following my 2007 paper, 'The Inspirational Night Dream in the Motivation and Justification of Jihad', Nova Religio 2007, 11(2): 59-76, I gave more than a dozen radio interviews for different international, national and regional radio stations and press publications, including the BBC World Service. The Press Association disseminated a synopsis of my article which was published, sometimes with longer feature articles, in numerous press outlets including the Malaysian Sun, South African Times, The Independent, The Times etc. I have given lectures at the Cheltenham Science Festival 2008; UK Wellcome Trust Sleep Exhibition 2008; The Winchester Arts and Mind Festival 2009; Sarajevo, Bosnia TV; The Cheltenham Book Festival 2010; Hay on Wye Philosophy and Music Festival 2011; Washington DC workshop on 'Soft Jihad Culture' 2011; Canadian Government Academic Outreach Programme 2011 and 2012; The Norwegian International Institute for International Affairs 2012.

Further media

  1. New York Magazine, November 2016
  2. InFocus, Bridgewater community TV interview on 'The Dream in Islam'

Research Interests

  • Imagination and dreaming

Selected Publications

Authored book

Edited book

  • Drackle, D. & Edgar, I.R. (2004). Learning Fields Vol.2 Current Educational Practices in European Social Anthropology. Oxford: Berghahn Books.
  • Drackle, D., Edgar, I. & Schippers, T. (2003). Learning Fields Vol. 1 Educational Histories of European Anthropology. Oxford: Berghahn Books.
  • Iain R. Edgar & A. Russell (1998). Anthropology of Welfare. London: Routledge.

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

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Research Groups

Research Projects

  • The Inspirational Night Dream in the Motivation and Justification of Jihad

Related Links