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ESRC funding for project exploring religion in multi-ethnic contexts

Dr Graeme Smith

A PROFESSOR from the University of Chichester is participating in a major research project examining the religious and spiritual experiences of global seafarers after it was granted over half-a-millions pounds in research council funding.

Professor Graeme Smith, of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, will also examine the experiences of ministry among port chaplains as part of the investigation by the Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC).

The project, Religion in multi-ethnic contexts, was awarded just over £500,000 in grant money from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) this week.

Taking place across 42 months, it will research the lived religious and spiritual experience of seafarers, port chaplains, and welfare workers.

Professor Smith said: “The projects aims to inform and shape a better spiritual provision by organisations working in ports.  It will also gain a deeper understanding of how religion and spirituality are expressed, experienced, and negotiated both in ports and multi-national residential workplaces.  This means we shall be exploring the evolution of religion outside of normal congregations and formally designated religious sites.

“It will provide insight into the needs, practices, and understandings of religious workers in contemporary ports as well as industrial workers on ships. The expectation is that the research will contribute to society’s understanding of how multi-faith groups peacefully co-exist, and what factors may disrupt or threaten harmony in religiously diverse populations.”


Taking part in the project alongside Professor Smith is Professor Helen Sampson, Director of SIRC, as well as Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray, a Professor in Religious and Theological Studies at Cardiff University and Director of the Islam-UK centre.

It will also feature Dr Nelson Turgo, a research associate at SIRC, and Professor Wendy Cadge, Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University.

Director of SIRC Helen Sampson said: “This project will allow us to consider the challenges associated with working in confined institutionalised multi-faith environments. It will offer us the opportunity to consider how people of different faiths can work and live harmoniously together in difficult conditions as well as the circumstances in which relationships may become strained.”

The project will use multiple methods including shipboard and port-based ethnography, interviews, and documentary analysis.

Archival data will also be collected charting the historical development of chaplaincy in ports in the UK.

Sophie Gilliat-Ray of the Islam UK centre said: “The project will allow us to explore the points of view of port-based chaplains who provide spiritual and welfare services to seafarers of different faiths calling at ports across the UK. The project is being supported by a wide range of stakeholders and has the potential to be of considerable benefit to both seafarers and associated welfare/spiritual organisations.”

To find out more about the Religion in multi-ethnic contexts project visit

Alternatively for more about Professor Graeme Smith and his research at the University of Chichester go to