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Durham University

Centre for Catholic Studies


Dr Anna Rowlands announced as the St Hilda Associate Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice

(4 July 2017)

We are delighted to announce Dr Anna Rowlands as the St Hilda Associate Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice.

Dr Rowlands’ appointment in the University’s Department of Theology and Religion will take effect in September 2017.

This endowed research and teaching post was made possible by a number of benefactors and supporters across the UK, Europe and the US. These benefactors include major foundations, women’s religious congregations, and business executives.

All are passionate about encouraging fresh research that will contribute to the constructive development of the Catholic social teaching tradition. All are also passionate about encouraging the imaginative practical application and dissemination of this tradition.

As a result, the holder of the St Hilda Chair devotes a significant portion of their time to outreach and engagement beyond the University community.

Dr Rowlands is currently a Lecturer in Contemporary Catholic Studies and Deputy Director of Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies.

A political theologian and expert on Catholic social teaching and with special interests in the work of Hannah Arendt and Gillian Rose, Dr Rowlands has worked on theology and migration for over a decade. She holds degrees in Social and Political Science and Theology from Cambridge University, the University of London and Manchester University.

Dr Rowlands is the author and co-author of two forthcoming books, Catholic Social Teaching: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2017) and Political Theology: A Reader (Bloomsbury, 2017). Her current AHRC/ESRC Global Challenges funded research, the Refugee Hosts project, focuses on forced displacement in the Middle East and examines the role that faith and faith-based organisations play in local responses to displacement. She is also working on a project on immigration destitution and detention with the Jesuit Refugee Service.

She is the Founding Chair of the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice, which over the next 18 months will be running a series of expert seminars on ‘contested questions in Catholic social teaching/thought’. Dr Rowlands will spend 20% of her time working directly with practitioner groups including Caritas Social Action Network, CAFOD, Jesuit Refugee Service and Caritas Europa.

Upon her appointment, Dr Rowlands said: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed to this innovative and exciting role. This post requires a dedication to pursuing both cutting-edge research in the Catholic social tradition and a desire to work in partnership with Catholic faith-based organisations that are shaping the next generation of Catholic social practice; a desire to make known the tradition of Catholic social thought as widely as possible at a critical moment for our culture, as well as a commitment to critically examine the development of that same tradition. The questions addressed by the Catholic social tradition – questions of the common good and human dignity – are pressing and urgent for us in local, national and international contexts and the task of the Hilda Chair is to contribute to exploring these questions as a researcher, teacher and through public engagement. I look forward to serving in this role.”

Professor Lewis Ayres, Head of the Department of Theology and Religion, said: “Durham University’s Department of Theology and Religion consistently ranks as one of the best departments in its field, not only in the UK but also internationally. One of our great strengths is our ability to combine cutting-edge research with a deep engagement with contemporary church communities.

“Nowhere is this more evident than in the work of the Centre for Catholic Studies. Dr Rowlands has made a major contribution to the flourishing of this Centre over the past few years, in her research, teaching and outreach. After an extended international search it was clear to us that we could not find better than Dr Rowlands and it is a delight to be able to see her take up this role. The extended applause that greeted the announcement of this appointment in a recent Departmental meeting testifies to the excitement that the Department feels at this decision.”

Dr Phil McCarthy, Vice-Chair of the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice and Chief Executive Officer of Caritas Social Action Network, said: “I am delighted by Dr Anna Rowlands’ appointment to the St Hilda Chair. Her leadership of the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice has been crucial. Dr Rowlands has the rare ability to convey her academic understanding of Catholic social thought to social practitioners in a vibrant and attractive way. I witnessed her ability to engage with difficult social realities when we visited the Calais migrant camp together. I look forward to working with her in the future.

Professor Paul D. Murray, Dean and Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies, said: “Positioned within a leading Department of Theology and Religion in the public academy, the St Hilda Chair in Catholic Social Thought and Practice at Durham University is a unique post. It requires two excellences of the post-holder: excellence in critical-constructive research, and excellence in public engagement across multiple communities. In Dr Anna Rowlands we have an appointee with immense proven capacity in each regard. We now look forward in great confidence to working together to bring this post to full flourishing.”