Priyesh Patel

Priyesh Patel


I am a first-year doctoral candidate at the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science. Alongside an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, I took a gap year to study Sanskrit and Hindu traditions in India. This sparked my interest in the academic research of Hinduism. I then read for an MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology at UCL where my thesis took a comparative ethnographic approach to the study of identity, belonging and religiosity among young Hindus in London and Lisbon. Two things became apparent during my fieldwork: the importance of religious spaces and historical contexts. Young Hindus in both cities had unique ways of expressing their identity and belonging, shaped by the migration trajectories of their communities, cultural contexts, and the ways in which they engaged with religious spaces in diaspora and their homeland.

Thereafter, I read for an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies at St.Antony’s College, Oxford. I benefited from the supervision and mentorship of regional experts based in the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, the Oriental Institute, the Oxford Department of International Department, the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Guided by Professor David Gellner, my 30,000-word thesis centred on the religious lives of Swaminarayan Hindus aged 23-40 in the UK. Some of the key questions I explored were: How were the weekly age-stratified sabhãs (assemblies) tailored to the challenges and interests of that age-phase? What were the religious experiences of a diverse spectrum of members attending weekly sabhãs? And how can this case study inform scholarly understandings of modern Hinduism, the secularisation thesis and the role of religion in contemporary society?

My doctoral research aims to contextualise contemporary manifestations of Hindu traditions through studying the history of Hinduism in the twentieth century. I am interested in how certain sampradãyas, organisations, thinkers, political leaders and religious figures ‘shaped’ Hinduism amidst changing social, cultural and political contexts, contributing to its worldwide dissemination. ‘Movement’ is a key point of analysis – not just of people and communities, but ideas, texts, symbols, traditions and the ‘spiritual travel’ of religious leadership. I hope to weave this historical context to the contemporary, lived global Hindu tradition and take an archival and ethnographic approach to the study of leading Hindu organisations.

Research interests

Contemporary Hinduism, Hinduism and the 20th Century, Diaspora, Colonialism, Migration, Sociology and Anthropology of Religion, Qualitative Research Methods


  • BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Warwick
  • GradDip in Sanskrit and Hindu Studies, Shree Somnath Sanskrit University, Veraval
  • MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology, UCL
  • MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies, University of Oxford

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Religion and Public Life