Dr Alexander Henley


I am an anthropological historian of religion in the modern Middle East, interested in how changing conceptions of ‘religion’ have contributed to the institutionalisation of Islam and the sectarianisation of Middle Eastern societies. In 2018-20, I was awarded a Marie Curie Research Fellowship for a project on “Genealogies of Islamic Religious Leadership in Post-Ottoman States”, tracing new models of religious leadership that have come to define religion in Muslim societies. In connection with that project, I established an interdisciplinary research network on “Categories of Religion and the Secular in Islam” (CRSI).

I am currently working on a book entitled “A Practical Guide to Critical Religion”, co-edited with Lauren Morry for publication with Bloomsbury Academic Press. Our aim in this volume is to make critical theory on ‘religion’ more accessible, showcasing its practical relevance and usefulness. Using case studies from our contributors’ current research, each chapter emphasises that critique is productive, deconstruction is constructive, provincialisation helps us achieve a more global vision, and historical genealogies shed light on contemporary realities.

As an Associate Faculty Member I participate in the Faculty’s research community while based at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, where I direct a 2-year MA programme in Islamic Studies. I first came to Oxford as a Departmental Lecturer in Islam and the Study of Religion in 2016, serving as a Tutor at Pembroke College (2016-18) and Mansfield College (2018-20). My teaching has focused on themes of religion and politics in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as theory and method in the Study of Religion. I previously held research and teaching positions at Harvard University, Georgetown University, Qatar University, and the Middlebury Arabic Summer School, as well as conducting fieldwork in Lebanon and Jordan with the support of visiting fellowships at the American University of Beirut, Notre Dame University Louaizeh, and the British Institute in Amman. I studied at the Universities of Durham, Edinburgh, Damascus and Manchester.

Research Area:

Study of Religions

Research Interests:

Modern Islam; Middle East; religious leadership; sectarianism and religious conflict; religion and politics.

Research Centres & Projects:

Network Coordinator, “Categories of Religion and the Secular in Islam” (CRSI)


Editorial Board Member, Contemporary Levant (a journal of the Council for British Research in the Levant)





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