Professor Harvey Whitehouse

Subject: Anthropology

Department: Anthropology

Academic position: Professorial Fellow


Professor Whitehouse received his BA from London University (LSE) and his PhD from Cambridge University (King’s College), before taking up a Research Fellowship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. From there he went to Queen’s University Belfast where he became founding director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture. He came to Oxford in 2006 to take up a newly created Chair in the School of Anthropology.

Research Interests

Harvey Whitehouse is currently the recipient of an ERC Advanced Grant to test and develop his theory of modes of religiosity. The modes theory proposes that the frequency and emotionality of rituals determines the scale and structure of religious organizations: low-frequency, highly arousing rituals bind together small but very cohesive groups of participants; high-frequency, less emotionally intense rituals create large anonymous communities that are more diffusely integrated. In recent years, Harvey Whitehouse’s work has expanded beyond religion to examine the role of rituals of all kinds in binding groups together and motivating inter-group competition, including warfare. This research has become increasingly global in reach with data collection currently ongoing in Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, Vanuatu, Brazil, USA, Spain, Cameroon, and Libya. Whitehouse is also a founding director of Seshat: Global History Databank, which contains a huge volume of data on historical societies going back 10,000 years and is being used to test various hypotheses concerning the role of rituals in the evolution of social complexity.

Selected Publications

For a full list of publications (and downloadable versions) see my website.

  1. Modes of Religiosity
  1. Imagistic pathways to identity fusion
  1. Ingroup causes of intergroup conflict
  1. The ritual stance in child development
  1. The evolution of social complexity
  1. Morality, religion, and cooperation