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Durham University

Email and Telephone Directory

Staff Profile

Professor Mathew Guest, BA (Nottingham), MA, PhD (Lancaster), FRSA

Professor in the Sociology of Religion and Head of Department in the Department of Theology and Religion
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43944
Room number: Abbey House 105

Contact Professor Mathew Guest (email at


I have been based in Durham since 2001, researching and teaching in the sociology of religion. I studied theology at the University of Nottingham and then Religious Studies followed by a PhD in Sociology at the University of Lancaster.

Following doctoral work on the British evangelical movement, my research has explored religion and generational change, and the institutional forces that frame how religious identities are perpetuated, sustained and subverted within 'western' capitalist societies.

Since 2009, this research has focused on the contemporary university as a site for the complex negotiation of religious identities. A 3-year project on ‘Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England’ was the first empirically driven, nation-wide study of student Christianity in the UK. It has led to the publication of Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith (Bloomsbury, 2013), co-authored with Kristin Aune, Sonya Sharma and Rob Warner. Three further projects focusing on the status of religious identities within the contexts of British Higher Education arose from this endeavour. The ‘Chaplains on Campus’ project, undertaken alongside Kristin Aune and Jeremy Law, took stock of the work of university chaplains across the UK HE sector, taking account of the experiences of chaplains themselves, students, and the decision makers who determine how university chaplaincy is resourced and managed. ‘Re/presenting Islam on Campus’ was a 3-year project undertaken alongside Alison Scott-Bauman, Shuruq Naguib, Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor and Aisha Phoenix. Its aims were to trace the ways in which Islam and Muslims are represented within UK universities, drawing on fresh empirical data to analyse patterns of reinforcement, negotiation and subversion of ideas at the level of university policy, teaching and learning, and the popular attitudes of staff and students. The findings were published in 2020 in a book, Islam on Campus: Contested Identities and the Cultures of Higher Education in Britain and in a freely available online report, Islam and Muslims on UK University Campuses: Perceptions and Challenges.

A third project, on worldview diversity among university students across the UK, builds on innovative research in the USA in gauging how students within different universities relate to those with cultural and religious worldview different from their own. It aims to trace patterns of religious diversity and develop an understanding of how positive relationships across this diversity are built within higher education contexts.

In recent years my research interests have extended into questions of how recent cultural developments characterised as 'neoliberal' have changed the expression of religious identities and the task of the sociology of religion as it seeks to make sense of them. My first book on this topic, Neoliberal Religion: Faith and Power in the 21st Century, will be published later in 2022 by Bloomsbury.

My general interest in the sociology of religion is reflected in the postgraduate students whose research I supervise, both on the PhD and the Doctor of Theology and Ministry programmes. All of my postgraduate research students are engaged in the empirical study of contemporary religion, and I would be more than happy to engage in email correspondence with further candidates who wish to pursue a project that reflects my research interests.

At the undergraduate and MA level I work alongside Professor Douglas Davies, Dr Jonathan Miles-Watson and Dr Sitna Quiroz within the broad field of the study of religion. Each of us works from a social scientific perspective and emphasise the importance of studying religion as a lived phenomenon.

My broader research activities bring me into contact with a lively international network of academics working in related areas. I currently serve as chair of the British Sociological Association’s Religion Study Group (SocRel), and work with an excellent executive committee on developing that subfield within the UK context.


Research Supervision

Helen Bailey

John Coggin

Tim Dixon

Brendan McMullan

Flo O'Taylor


Authored book

  • Guest, Mathew (2022). Neoliberal Religion: Faith and Power in the Twenty-First Century. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Scott-Baumann, Alison, Guest, Mathew, Naguib, Shuruq, Cheruvallil-Contractor, Sariya & Phoenix, Aisha (2020). Islam on Campus: Contested Identities and the Cultures of Higher Education in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Guest, Mathew, Aune, Kristin, Sharma, Sonya & Warner, Rob (2013). Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Davies, D. J. & Guest, M. J. (2007). Bishops, Wives and Children: Spiritual Capital Across the Generations. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • Guest, Mathew. (2007). Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation. Milton Keynes: Paternoster.

Edited book

  • Guest, Mathew & Middlemiss-Le Mon, Martha (2017). Death, Life and Laughter: Essays on Religion in Honour of Douglas Davies. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Guest, Mathew & Arweck, Elisabeth (2012). Religion and Knowledge: Sociological Perspectives. Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective Series in Association with the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
  • Guest, Mathew, Tusting, Karin & Woodhead, Linda (2004). Congregational Studies in the UK: Christianity in a Post-Christian Context. Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Chapter in book

  • Guest, Mathew (2022). From Protestant Ethic to Neoliberal Logic: Evangelicals at the Interface of Culture and Politics. In Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, Volume 32: Lesser Heard Voices in Studies of Religion. Hood, Ralph W. & Cheruvallil-Contractor, Sariya Leiden: Brill. 32: 482-507.
  • Guest, Mathew (2019). The 'Hidden Christians' of the UK University Campus. In Young People and the Diversity of (Non)Religious Identities in International Perspective. Arweck, Elisabeth & Shipley, Heather Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 8: 51-67.
  • Aune, Kristin & Guest, Mathew (2017). The Contested Campus: Christian Students in UK Universities. In Religion and Higher Education in Europe and North America. Aune, Kristin & Stevenson, Jacqueline Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 71-89.
  • Guest, Mathew (2016). From Jevons to Collini (via Douglas Davies): Reflections on Higher Education and Religious Identity. In Death, Life and Laughter: Essays on Religion in Honour of Douglas Davies. Guest, Mathew & Middlemiss Lé Mon, Martha Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 201-220.
  • Guest, Mathew (2015). Evangelicalism and Politics. In 21st Century Evangelicals: Reflections on Research by the Evangelical Alliance. Smith, Greg Watford: Instant Apostle. 82-99.
  • Guest, Mathew (2015). Religion and the Cultures of Higher Education: Student Christianity in the UK. In Issues in Religion and Education, Whose Religion?. Beaman, Lori & Van Arragon, Leo Leiden: Brill. 25: 346-366.
  • Guest, Mathew, Olson, Elizabeth & Wolffe, John (2012). Christianity: Loss of Monopoly. In Religion and Change in Modern Britain. Woodhead, Linda & Catto, Rebecca London: Routledge. 57-78.
  • Murray, Paul & Guest, Mathew (2012). On Discerning the Living Truth of the Church: Theological and Sociological Reflections on Receptive Ecumenism and the Local Church. In Explorations in Ecclesiology and Ethnography. Scharen, Christian Cambridge: Eerdmans. 138-164.
  • Guest, Mathew (2012). Religion and Knowledge: the Sociological Agenda. In Religion and Knowledge: Sociological Perspectives. Guest, M & Arweck, E Ashgate. 1-21.
  • Guest, Mathew (2010). Socialisation and Spiritual Capital: What Difference do Clergy Families Make? In Religion and Youth. Collins-Mayo, Sylvia & Pink Dandelion Aldershot: Ashgate. 175-180.
  • Guest, Mathew (2009). The Plausibility of Creationism: A Sociological Comment. In Reading Genesis After Darwin. Barton, Stephen & Wilkinson, David Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 217-236.
  • Guest, Mathew (2008). The Reproduction and Transmission of Religion. In The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Religion. Clarke, Peter Oxford: Oxford University Press. 651-670.
  • Guest, M. J. (2007). In Search of Spiritual Capital the Spiritual as a Cultural Resource. In A Sociology of Spirituality. Flanagan, K. & Jupp, P. Aldershot: Ashgate. 181-200.
  • Guest, Mathew (2007). Reconceiving the Congregation as a Source of Authenticity. In Redefining Christian Britain: Post-1945 Perspectives. Garnett, Jane, Grimley, Matthew, Harris, Alana, Whyte, William & Williams, Sarah London: SCM Press. 63-72.
  • Guest, Mathew (2004). ‘Friendship, Fellowship and Acceptance’ The Public Discourse of a Thriving Evangelical Congregation. In Congregational Studies in the UK: Christianity in a Post-Christian Context. Guest, M., Tusting, K. & Woodhead, L. Aldershot: Ashgate. 71-84.
  • Linda Woodhead, Mathew Guest & Karin Tusting (2004). Congregational Studies: Taking Stock. In Congregational Studies in the UK: Christianity in a Post-Christian Context. Guest, M., Tusting, K. & Woodhead, L. Aldershot: Ashgate. 1-23.
  • Guest, Mathew (2002). ‘Alternative Worship’ Challenging the Boundaries of the Christian Faith. In Theorising Faith: The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Ritual. Arweck, E. & Stringer, M Birmingham: University of Birmingham Press. 35-56.

Journal Article

  • Aune, Kristin, Peacock, Lucy, Guest, Mathew & Law, Jeremy (2023). University Chaplaincy as Relational Presence: Navigating understandings of good and effective chaplaincy in UK universities. Journal of College and Character
  • Huang, Yinxuan, Aune, Kristin & Guest, Mathew (2021). COVID-19 and the Chinese Christian Community in Britain: Changing Patterns of Belonging and Division. Studies in World Christianity 27(1): 7-25.
  • Guest, Mathew (2021). Tracing the routes to pro-Trump Evangelicalism. Journal of Contemporary Religion 36(1): 161-166.
  • Aune, Kristin & Guest, Mathew (2019). Christian University Students’ Attitudes to Gender: Constructing Everyday Theologies in a Post-Feminist Climate. Religions 10(2): 133.
  • Guest, Mathew & Aune, Kristin (2017). Students' Constructions of a Christian Future: Faith, Class and Aspiration in University Contexts. Sociological Research Online 22(1): 200-212.
  • Guest, Mathew (2017). The Emerging Church in Transatlantic Perspective. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 56(1): 41-51.
  • Guest, Mathew, Sharma, Sonya, Aune, Kristin & Warner, Rob (2013). Challenging 'Belief' and the Evangelical Bias: Student Christianity in English Universities. Journal of Contemporary Religion 28(2): 207-223.
  • Sharma, S & Guest, M (2013). Navigating religion between university and home: Christian students' experiences at English universities. Social & Cultural Geography 14(1): 59-79.
  • Guest, Mathew (2012). Keeping the End in Mind: Left Behind, the Apocalypse and the Evangelical Imagination. Literature and Theology 26(4): 474-488.
  • Guest, Mathew (2010). Evangelicalism and Capitalism in Transatlantic Context. Politics and Religion 4(2): 257-279.
  • Guest, Mathew. & Taylor, Steve. (2006). The post-evangelical emerging church innovations in New Zealand and the UK. International journal for the study of the christian church 6(1): 49-64.
  • Guest, Mathew (2005). Sacred Space and the Local Church: Developments in Congregational Studies. Contact: Practical Theology and Pastoral Care 147: 18-24.


  • Guest, Mathew, Scott-Baumann, Alison, Cheruvallil-Contractor, Sariya, Naguib, Shuruq, Phoenix, Aisha, Lee, Yenn & Al-Baghal, Tarek (2020). Islam and Muslims on UK University Campuses: Perceptions and Challenges. Durham University, SOAS University of London, Coventry University, Lancaster University.
  • Aune, Kristin, Guest, Mathew & Law, Jeremy (2019). Chaplains on Campus: Understanding Chaplaincy in UK Universities. Coventry University, Durham University, Canterbury Christ Church University.
  • Guest, Mathew, Sharma, Sonya & Song, Robert (2013). Gender and Career Progression in Theology and Religious Studies. Durham, Durham University.

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Religion: Evangelical Christianity
  • Religion: Transmission of values in clergy families
  • Religion: Sociology of Religion
  • Religion: Religion among university students
  • Religious Education: Religion among university students
  • Sociology: Religion among university students


Selected Grants

  • 2015: Re/presenting Islam on Campus: Gender, Radicalisation and Interreligious Understanding in British Higher Education, AHRC/ESRC £568,727
  • 2011: Exploring Issues of Gender in the Disciplines of Theology and Religious Studies in Higher Education (£3000.00 from Higher Education Academy)
  • 2009: Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England (£248594.04 from Arts & Humanities Research Board)