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Ruth Sheldon

Dangoor Research Fellow
BA (Hons) Philosophy, Politics and Economics (University of Oxford), MA Continental Philosophy (University of Essex), PhD Sociology (University of Kent)


Academic background

  • Ruth Sheldon joined Birkbeck in October 2014 after completing her PhD in Sociology at the University of Kent. She is an interdisciplinary ethnographer whose research focuses on exploring ethical, political and theological encounters within public institutions and everyday settings in contemporary Britain. She has a particular interest in the practice of ethnography as a psychosocial method for responding to questions of ethics, democracy, violence and justice.

Research and teaching


  • I am currently working on the Psychosocial Components of Ethical Monotheism project, conducting an ethnographic study of relations amongst Jewish, Muslim and Christian neighbours in Hackney, London. I am approaching this through the lens of the neighbour, imagined as a theologically significant figure and an everyday reality within urban life. This research is exploring how neighbourly relations are shaped by histories of secularism, migration, colonialism and multiculturalism and are figured in response to the fraught political landscape of post-Brexit Britain. Through this project, I also hope to contribute to emerging disciplinary encounters between theology, philosophy and social theory, which can help to question the implicitly Christian terms of mainstream sociology.
  • This current project builds on themes that emerged in the course of my doctoral research, an ethnographic exploration of the student politics of Palestine-Israel in British universities. I have recently completed a monograph based on that study in which I seek to understand the stakes of campus conflicts in relation to entangled violent histories and the dynamics of globalisation. I also focus on the university itself as a profoundly conflicted institution whose own identity and value is at stake in these struggles. I continue to be interested in these fundamental tensions around the epistemic and ethical life of the academy and specifically in the question of what it means to ‘speak freely’ within our universities at the present time.

Research interests

  • Sociology of religion; ethics; urban ethnography; psychosocial methods



Book chapters

  • Sheldon, R. (2018) Sacralised conflict and ordinary ethics: Palestine-Israel in British universities, in Arat, A and Doggett, L (eds.) Foundations and Futures in the Sociology of Religion, London: Routledge.
  • Sheldon, R. (2016) Secularism, free speech and the public university: student engagement with Israel-Palestine within a British campus, in Aune, K and Stevenson, J (eds.) Religion and Belief in Higher Education. London: Routledge.

Journal articles

Professional memberships

Professional memberships

  • Member, British Sociological Association
  • Member, BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group (Socrel)
  • Member and joint coordinator, NYLON (international sociology research network) (2011-2014) and co-founder / coordinator, NYLUM early career group (2015-ongoing)
  • Convener, Ethics Reading Group (an interdisciplinary group that meets at the UCL Institute of Education and includes academics and students working across the philosophy of education, sociology and religious studies).
  • Participant, AHRC Humanities in Human Rights Programme (2013-14)



  • 2017-2018: Principal investigator, Jewish unbelief in contemporary Britain. Early career award, Understanding Unbelief Programme, John Templeton Foundation.
  • In 2012-13, I was the joint recipient of an AHRC Collaborative Skills Development Award for a project that developed workshops for doctoral students on the subject of the academic supervision.

Contact details

Room 230, 26 Russell Square
Department of Psychosocial Studies
Birkbeck, University of London
London WC1B 5DT

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7631 6745