Naomi Richman


Professor Graham Ward and Dr Sarah Apetrei


St Anthony's College

Research Overview:

My thesis offers a critical analysis of sexual identity and the status of the body in Deliverance Pentecostalism. The striking prevalence of women in Pentecostalism has prompted lively debate amongst theologians and anthropologists on the issue of empowerment, but thesis proposes that the empowerment/ disempowerment paradigm is dated, narrow and raises as many questions as it answers. My study responds to these scholarly demands by offering a much needed construction and examination of the movement's understanding of embodiment and sexual difference – which maintains that divine and Satanic spirits manifest themselves upon the body – and its application in practices like worship and sex. Using as my case-study the deliverance theology of a particular Nigerian church, in this project I examine sermon transcripts and church materials, as well as conduct participant-observation and interviews at three fieldwork sites; Nigeria, Oxford and Los Angeles.

Primary Research Area: 

Anthropology of Religion

Modern and Systematic Theology

Science and Religion

Gender and Sexuality Studies


Prior to enrolling on the DPhil programme, I achieved a First Class BA in Philosophy and Theology and a Masters with Distinction in the Study of Religions, both here at Oxford. I am passionate about public engagement and to that end, I have delivered public lectures and podcasts, and my work has been featured in a variety of media outlets. In my spare time, I enjoy getting lost in art galleries, cooking and travelling around the world.

Papers taught:

  • 'Religion and Religions'
  • 'Nature of Religions'
  • 'Key Themes in Systematic Theology'
  • ‘Feminist Approaches in Theology and Religion’
  • 'Figure of Jesus through the Centuries'
  • ‘Foundations for Reading Theology and Religion'
  • 'Cognition and Culture' (Anthropology)
  • Supervision of undergraduate dissertations in the Human Sciences

Selected Media Appearances and Public Engagement Projects:

Collaborator with the Metropolitan Police 'Faith-related crimes' unit; Contributor to BBC radio programme, 'Losing my Religion'; Contributor to BBC World at One; Participant at United Nations Experts Workshop on witchcraft-related abuses; Collaborator for the 'Empires of Faith' exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum; Presenter for The Remedy podcast series (awarded TORCH Public Engagement prize); Presenter for National Geographic Learning.


Select Publications:

'What does it feel like to be post-secular? Ritual expressions of religious affects in contemporary renewal movements.' International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, 79:3, 295-310 (2018), available here

'Entangled Genealogies and False Dichotomies: Anthropology, Theology and the Post-Secular Paradigm in World Christianity.' Journal of World Christianity, 9:1 (2019), 61-7, available here

'Machine Gun Prayer: The Politics of Embodied Desire in Pentecostal Worship.' Journal of Contemporary Religion (forthcoming)

Academic Interests: 

I am particularly interested in the intersections between religion and popular culture. I am also interested in science and religion, the far-flung Jewish diaspora, witchcraft, new religious movements and post-modern spirituality.


All Soul's College Scholar and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Scholar