Theology, Religion and Popular Culture Network

The Theology, Religion and Popular Culture Network was founded in 2005 at the initiative of Professors Gordon Lynch and Peter Ward. It was recognised that there was a need for some serious, rigorous academic engagement within the field of interaction between religion and popular culture which, whilst undertaken on an academic footing, also recognised the challenges brought to and by popular culture’s presence in faith communities. The appearance of the word ‘theology’ in the Network’s title signalled that practitioners as well as academics were involved.

In similar ways to the manner in which discussions were happening in cultural studies about how (indeed whether) scholars could also be fans, and fans of what they were allegedly critically and dispassionately studying, it was acknowledged that those studying popular culture and religion might be fans of both popular culture and religion. They might also be critical of neither. At the same time, it could not be assumed that no interests were being served in the work of scholars professing no religious commitments.

It was, then, a live issue to enable exploration of commitment/s (to religion and/or popular culture) in a critically rigorous, academically-satisfying way, in a way which may benefit faith communities and wider society. A new forum needed to be found for this. TRPCN was born.

The Network therefore exists to broker the best of research into popular culture and faith/ religion/ theology to faith communities, and to encourage rigorous academic reflection (for those of all faiths and none) on issues which arise in society at the interface between popular cultures, theologies and religions.

The Network enables people from a variety of disciplines – not just religious studies, theology and sociology, but also sport and cultural studies, psychology, anthropology, media studies – anyone who has an interest in what goes on at the contemporary interface between religion and popular culture, to examine what is happening in society today.

The Network had largely, though not exclusively, Christian roots when it first emerged. It clearly could not stay that way, though it has proved a slow process to become more religiously diverse. Nor could it be confined to an interplay between religious studies and sociology, though as anyone who works in inter-disciplinary fields knows, it is hard to foster wide networks simply because different disciplines speak different languages and have different methods. But the Network is committed to enabling as wide a conversation as is possible to take place.

The Network’s next event will be in Hull from 11-13 July 2017, in the context of Hull’s celebration as UK City of Culture 2017. Follow the link at: and respond to the Call for Papers! Deadline: Dec 1st 2016.

To register your interest in the Network’s work, and to receive its, and other groups’, mailings about events in the field, sign up to join the e-mailing list at:

To raise any queries, or to offer any suggestions, pertaining to the Network’s life, please contact either of the co-chairs: Dr. Steve Knowles (University of Chester) or Dr. Clive Marsh (University of Leicester)


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Announcement, October 2016

Over the past three months the University of Leicester has conducted a public consultation involving staff, students and stakeholders in the local community on the future of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning (VCLL).

On 16 September the University Council announced its decision to approve the proposal for the disestablishment of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning as a department of the University of Leicester.

Further information