Dr Suzanne Owen

Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies

I focus on the critical analysis of ‘indigeneity’ and other categories, such as ‘religion’, and their contested usages by different groups, combining anthropological research methods with discourse analysis. By raising questions about religion as a constructed category, the study of indigenous religions challenges colonial frameworks that have historically informed it.

Email: suzanne.owen@chester.ac.uk


MA (Edinburgh), MSc (Edinburgh), PhD (Edinburgh), PGCE (Bath Spa), FHEA


My PhD from Edinburgh University focussed on the significance of protocols in the sharing of Native American ceremonies derived from Lakota and other Plains Indian traditions and debates about non-native ‘appropriations’ of them.  This research also included fieldwork among Mi'kmaq in Newfoundland, Canada.  More recently, I have been researching British Druidry in relation to indigeneity and religion.

My next project has taken me back to Newfoundland to research visual representations of the Beothuk, an indigenous group now culturally extinct due to the impact of colonisation. However, they continue to be remembered and made present through art, literature and museum exhibitions, often at the expense of the Mi’kmaq and other First Nations.

I am also interested in shamanism as a cross-cultural category and have maintained an interest in Indic and Buddhist traditions, which I specialised in during my undergraduate studies at Edinburgh University. I started working at Leeds Trinity University in 2008 and remain part-time there since joining Chester’s TRS department in September 2013.

I am co-chair of the Indigenous Religious Traditions Group at the American Academy of Religion and coordinating editor of DISKUS, the journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions.


Undergraduate Modules

TH4042 - The Study of Religion: an Introduction.

TH5045 - Anthropology of Religion

Postgraduate Modules

TH7040 - Indigenous Religions


Research Interests

  • Indigenous Religions
  • Native Studies
  • Contemporary Paganism
  • Representation and identity
  • Methodological and theoretical debates


PhD Supervision

I welcome enquiries for research at doctoral level in any of my research areas listed above or from students wishing to explore other areas within:

  • Religious Studies, Contemporary Spiritualities and Religion and Society

External Funding

2013       British Academy Small Research Grant for fieldwork and workshop in Newfoundland on ‘Indigeneity, memory and representation of the Beothuk in Newfoundland’, in collaboration with Dr John Harries, University of Edinburgh (£2480)

2008       British Academy Overseas Conference grant to present a paper at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) conference in Athens, Georgia, USA (£400)

2007-8   Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, to research ‘self-disclosure in the study of indigenous religions’ (£5000, six months)

2005       Carnegie Trust (£750) and Moray Endowment Fund (£1400) awards for fieldwork in Newfoundland

2003       University of Edinburgh Alumni Fund: Small Project Grant for preliminary fieldwork in Newfoundland (£500)

1996       Spalding Trust grant for fieldtrip to South India (£500)

Published work


2017 Forthcoming: Contemporary Druidry: A Native Tradition? (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017)
2008 The Appropriation of Native American Spirituality (London; New York: Continuum, 2008)



Other Select Publications

2013 ‘Prayer with Pain: Ceremonial Suffering among the Mi’kmaq,’ in J. Fear-Segal & R. Tillett (eds) Indigenous Bodies: Reviewing, Relocating, Reclaiming (New York: State University of New York Press, 2013)
2013 ‘Druidry and the Definition of Indigenous Religion,’ in James L. Cox (ed.) Critical Reflections on Indigenous Religions (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013)
2011 ‘The World Religions Paradigm: time for a change,’ Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 10.3 (July 2011), 253-268
2010 ‘Production of Sacred Space in the Mi’kmaq Powwow,’ DISKUS 11 (August 2010) http://www.basr.ac.uk/diskus/diskus11/owen.htm