Professor Emma Tomalin


I am a sociologist of religion/religious studies scholar whose work is focused on the broad area of religion and public life. I have a long standing interest in religions and global development, including the gender dimensions of this relationship. More recently, I have been involved in projects that also engage with the role of faith actors in humanitarian action, peacebuilding and health. I have mainly worked in South and South East Asia, and more recently East Africa. Closer to home, I have carried out research on the role of faith actors in public life in the UK, in terms of the anti-trafficking and modern slavery domain as well as the relevance of local faith communities to public health. 

Research interests

Current research projects

The Hidden Peacebuilders Network  

The Hidden Peacebuilders Network was established in 2018 to improve understanding of the role of local faith actors in building peace and resilience. It has partners in the UK, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Burundi, Kenya and Brazil. 

It is an international collaboration of academics, faith actors, practitioners and policy makers to bridge the gap between local and international approaches to peacebuilding as well as between policy, practice and research through the following objectives:

  • Identifying and sharing existing evidence about the role of local faith actors (LFAs) in peacebuilding, including attention to both the 'tangible'/’visible’ and 'intangible'/’invisible’ dimensions of their contribution

  • Carrying out new research to fill evidence gaps

  • Translating research into policy and practice.

We have received funding for this project from the AHRC (2019-2021) (The hidden peace-builders: from ambivalence to engagement, strengthening the role of local faith actors in peace-building and reconciliation); the British Academy (2023-2024) (Building Community Resilience, Peace and Reconciliation as a Response to Global (Dis)Order: the ‘Tangible’ and ‘Intangible’ Aspects of Local Faith Actors’ Contributions) and the University of Leeds (2023-2024). 

Other recent research projects

Sustainable Development for Pastoralist Women in India: Heritage, Dignity and Adaptations in Times of Rapid Change (British Adademy, 2018-2021).

Understanding the Role of Faith Based Organisations in Anti-Trafficking (ESRC, 2017-2020). See project website here.

‘Bridging the Gap the Role of Local Faith Actors in Humanitarian Response in South Sudan’ (Funded by Belgian Gov.) with JLI, RedR, Tearfund and Islamic Relief World Wide. Read the report (2018-20).

AHRC Network (with Jorg Haustein, Cambridge University) Keeping Faith in 2030: Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals (2016-2018).

Networking and collaboration

I am part of a number of groups that focus on issues to do with religions and development. Please contact me if you are interested in finding out more or getting involved.

I am co-convenor of a study group in the UK Development Studies Association (DSA) on 'Religions and Development'. I am also co-chair of the International Development and Religion programme unit of the American Academy of Religion.

I am co-chair of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communty’s (JLI) Hub on Anti-Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. Read our latest study

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Religion and Public Life
  • Centre for Endangered Languages, Cultures and Ecosystems
  • Centre for Global Health Histories

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>