Dr Jennifer Riley

Dr Jennifer Riley
Dr Jennifer Riley
Dr Jennifer Riley

BA (Hons), PhD (Dunelm), MA Lancaster, FHEA

Research Fellow

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Office Address

Please note that Dr Riley is currently working from home in England.

School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History


I am a Leverhulme Trust Early Career fellow and interdisciplinary scholar, working across religious studies and the study of death and dying using mixed qualitative methods.

My current research explores 'grave goods' in contemporary Britain - the things people put in other people's coffins or graves, knowing that they will almost certainly never get them back. I hope to explore people's motivations and reasoning using mixed methods, especially in light of environmental concerns, afterlife beliefs (or their absence) and archaeological scholarship. The project will produce a free online exhibition. 

I joined Aberdeen in 2021 as a research fellow on the ESRC-funded 'Care in Funerals' project. The project was a collaboration across health services research, anthropology, religious studies, archaeology and philosophy, and benefitted from practitioner expertise. 

In 2022, I began working in Divinity on 'Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities: What kind of education do clergy and ordinands require in order to include and care for people living with dementia and those who care for them?' This project speaks to research interests at the intersection of healthcare and contemporary religion - particularly Christianity, also the topic of my doctorate. I gained my PhD from Durham University in 2020, for a thesis exploring the relationship between healthcare work and identity in the lives of evangelical Christian medics in England. It drew upon expertise in qualitative methodologies and religion - particularly evangelical Christianity - in contemporary Britain.

In 2023, under the auspices of Aberdeen's Epidemiology group, I conducted a qualitative review for CAPE (Consortium Against Pain inEquality): The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Chronic Pain and Responses to Treatment. This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust's Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) in partnership with CAPE's Chronic Pain Advisory Group and colleagues at the University of Calgary. 



  • BA(Hons) Theology 
    2016 - Durham University 
  • MA Religious Studies 
    2017 - Lancaster University 
  • PhD Theology and Religion 
    2020 - Durham University 
  • FHEA Teaching and Student Support in Higher Education 
    2021 - Advance HE 

External Memberships

Postdoctoral Representative - Association for the Study of Death and Society (ASDS) - https://deathandsociety.org/ 

Latest Publications

View My Publications

Prizes and Awards

  • Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow (2024)
  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA, Advance HE) (2021)
  • Recognised as one of ‘Durham University’s Women Making a Difference’ (2020)
  • AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership (2020)
  • Lancaster University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Postgraduate Studentship (2017)
  • Durham University Department of Theology and Religion De Bury Prize (best overall result) (2016)
  • Durham Students’ Union Award for Outstanding Academic Representative (2015)
  • Durham University Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship for Academic Excellence (2014-2015)

Research Areas

Religious Studies

Applied Health Sciences

Current Research

Educating for Inclusive, Caring Communities: What kind of education do clergy and ordinands require in order to include and care for people living with dementia and their families? Funded by HammondCare Australia, the Kirby Laing Foundation and the Sir Halley Stewart Trust.

Consortium Against Pain InEquality (CAPE) - Conducting a qualitative review as an adjunct to this large study, funded by the Wellcome Trust ISSF. For more information about the study, see https://www.abdn.ac.uk/iahs/research/epidemiology/cape-study-page-2343.php 

Care in Funerals - Interdisciplinary ESRC-funded project exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK funerals and funeral provision. For more information, please see https://www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/philosophy/care-in-funerals-2015.php 

Related conference presentations include:

  • Centre for Death and Society Annual Conference - Saying "No" goes against the grain: UK funeral directors’ experiences and the complexities of ‘choice’ during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic - Refereed conference paper - May 2023 
  • Death and Culture IV – “Conceptualising Care for the Corpse: the pandemic as a lens for examining values and practices related to care for the deceased body” – Refereed conference paper – September 2022
  • British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Annual Conference - “Disruption and Continuity in Funerary Ritual During the Covid-19 Crisis in the UK” – Refereed conference paper – July 2022
  • Centre for Death and Society Annual Conference – “Care in Funerals: Emerging Findings” – refereed panel presentation; and “Care in Funerals: Ethics Casebook Demonstration” – interactive conference session – June 2022
  • Death Dying and Disposal 15 – “A gift and a thief:” The losses and affordances of funerals during the Covid-19 pandemic - Refereed conference paper - September 2021

Past Research

BA Dissertation - 2016 - Sacred Space Today: A study of St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Mixed methods exploration of the relationship between worship and tourism at Newcastle's Anglican cathedral. 

MA Dissertation - 2017 - "It's church, but not as you know it." The missional, prophetic and denominational Messy Church vision. Documentary analysis and participant observation exploring the vision and effects of Messy Church. 

PhD Thesis - 2020 - "Am I a Christian doctor?" Exploring the faith consequences and identity implications of healthcare work among evangelical medics in England. Funded by AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership. Available at http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/13846/ 


Related conference presentations include: 

  • American Academy of Religion – ‘Complexities of Evangelical Perspectives on Medical Ethics’ – refereed conference paper - November 2020
  • Journal for the British Association of the Study of Religions – ‘”It’s a fraught subject” – Listening to evangelical doctors talking about abortion’ – October 2020
  • Christian Medical Fellowship Student Conference – ‘Vocation: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ – conference paper January 2020
  • British Association for the Study of Religions – ‘”It’s a fraught subject” - Listening to evangelical doctors talking about abortion’ – conference paper September 2019
  • Society for the Study of Christian Ethics – ‘Tradition, Experience, and Complexity and the Formation of Christians in Medicine’ – conference paper April 2019

Knowledge Exchange

For the Care in Funerals blog, see https://www.abdn.ac.uk/hsru/blog/category/care-in-funerals/ . Further knowledge exchange and public engagement activities are being planned. 

Popular Culture and Theology - We don't talk about burnout: what Disney's Encanto can teach us about having a vocation – September 2022

Woman Alive Magazine - Does your church have an unconsious middle class uniform? – July 2022

Two Cities Podcast - Abortion and Single-Issue voting - https://www.thetwocities.com/culture/politics/abortion-single-issue-voting-with-jennie-riley-podcast/ - November 2020


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Books and Reports

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