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Our Research Catalogue contains grants and outputs data up until April/May 2014.

An ethnography of the British Humanist Association

  • Start date: 01 January 2011
  • End date: 30 December 2011

Dr Engelke will conduct an anthropological study of the British Humanist Association (BHA), one of the most prominent 'non-religious' organisations in Britain.

The BHA is committed to the promotion of ethical values as sustainable without religious foundations (especially human rights and the 'golden rule'); the well-being of individuals and communities through the development of humanist ceremonies (naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals); and the eradication of what is understood to be a privileged position for religion (especially Christianity) within political institutions, schools, and state-funded media.

The aim of the research is to advance our understanding of what constitutes humanism and related 'non-religious' beliefs such as atheism, as well as how the BHA's institutionalisation of such worldviews relate to religious beliefs, religious and political structures, and debates over secularism.

The research will involve participant observation within the BHA's London office, following a selection of its public policy campaigns; training as a 'celebrant' to conduct humanist ceremonies, as well as observing professional celebrants in their work; and following the programs of selected local BHA branches to understand how local-level humanist activism both feeds into and differs from the Association's centralised work. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups will also be conducted as appropriate.