#57 Harvey Whitehouse – Rituals, social cohesion & the theory of modes of religiosity

Hør afsnittet

In this episode, you will meet professor at the University of Oxford, Harvey Whitehouse. Harvey is the director of the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion, he is Statutory Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, and a Professorial Fellow of Magdalen College. Harvey has worked extensively with rituals since his first long-term fieldwork in Papua New Guinea in 1980s. His list of publications includes myriads of interdisciplinary contributions, articles, and edited volumes apart from books, with the most recent being ‘The Ritual Animal’ (from 2021).

Currently, Harvey is testing and developing his theory of modes of religiosity which proposes that the frequency, transmission form and emotionality of rituals influences the scale and structure of social organisation. In recent years, his research has expanded beyond religion to examine all kinds of ritual behaviour globally and their role in binding groups together whether being in the context of football, war, or ex-convicts. Apart from that, Harvey has been occupied with questions on the evolution of social complexity, something which is also explored in his forthcoming book ‘Inheritance: the evolutionary origins of the modern world’ that will be published in June 2024. 

In this podcast, we talk with Harvey about what characterises rituals, what kinds of social effects they can produce, and how they have developed throughout history and influenced social organisation. Harvey explains the modes of religiosity theory and we discuss how it can be usefully applied in relation to conflict and contexts as diverse as football fandom, violent extremism, and the environmental crisis. Finally, Harvey shares his vision of an anthropology that reaches beyond interpretive exclusivism and disciplinary silos when trying to understand cultural and social systems.

The episode is part of Regnfang’s series of co-publications of the Anthropology on Air podcast. A podcast created and published in collaboration with the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen. The podcast was recorded in November 2023, when Harvey visited Bergen to give the yearly Barth Memorial Lecture.


Academic profile: https://www.anthro.ox.ac.uk/people/professor-harvey-whitehouse

Personal website: https://www.harveywhitehouse.com

Paper mentioned: Rethinking ritual: how rituals made our world and how they could save it (2023)

Books mentioned: The Ritual Animal (2021), ‘Inheritance: the evolutionary origins of the modern world (forthcoming)