Alumnus/a of the Semester Profiles

REF 2021

1st in the UK

Divinity at the University of Aberdeen was ranked 1st in the UK for overall quality of research

Alumnus/a of the Semester Profiles

Alumna of the Semester: Professor Esther McIntosh


Professor Esther McIntosh is Professor of Feminist Theology and Ethics at York St John University. Her research is in the areas of philosophy of religion and public theology, and for eight years she was the Managing Editor of the International Journal of Public Theology. Her numerous publications include John Macmurray’s Religious Philosophy: What it Means to be a Person (Ashgate), and Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Staff and Students (York St John), co-authored with Sharon Jagger. She has also edited Yours the Power: Faith Based Organizing in the USA (Brill) with Katie Day and William Storrar, as well as editing and introducing John Macmurray: Selected Philosophical Writings (Imprint Academic).

Esther completed her B.D. (Hons) and a Ph.D. in philosophy and theology at the University of Aberdeen. She was kind enough to share some of her thoughts and memories about her time here in the department…

  1. What was your background before coming to Aberdeen?

My family background is both Welsh and Scottish; I was born in Wales. From the age of three, I lived in England, where I was brought up in a Baptist household. We moved a few times, and I was educated in several different state schools.


  1. What drew you to the department here?

When I was scouring university prospectuses in sixth form college, I was particularly impressed by the wide variety of subjects covered by the Divinity degree at Aberdeen University. (This is, of course, made possible by the extra year afforded to the four-year Scottish degrees compared with only having three years for most undergraduate theology degrees in England.) In addition, King’s College looked like a beautiful and impressive place in which to study, and it proved to be just that; in fact, my husband and I were married in King’s College chapel.


  1. Do you have any particular memories of members of the faculty here that you would like to share?

I have positive memories of all the faculty: every lecturer was passionate about their subject and aimed to instil that enthusiasm in their students, while making space for critique. In particular, David Fergusson encouraged me to apply for a doctorate. I was not a very confident student, and systematic theology was heavily dominated by men at that time; nevertheless, I was impressed with David’s approach: he took the concerns of feminist theology seriously and made a conscious effort to make sure conferences and events were not comprised of all-male panels.    


  1. What is it that you have done since leaving?

Towards the end of my doctoral studies, I moved to Leeds where my husband had secured a PhD studentship. For a couple of years, I juggled childcare and part-time work at the University of Leeds, initially teaching a range of philosophy modules in the evenings to part-time and continuing education students before obtaining a lectureship in Religion, Gender and Ethics in the Theology and Religious Studies department. Six years later, I moved to York St John University where I have held a number of roles progressing to my current position as Professor of Feminist Theology and Ethics, and Associate Head of Humanities for programmes in Religion, Politics and International Relations. Throughout this time, I have continued to carry out philosophical and theological research from a feminist perspective with the aim of exposing exclusion and seeking justice, equality and inclusion for marginalized people.  


  1. How has Aberdeen helped shape you as a thinker?

My time at Aberdeen taught me the importance of taking time as a thinker: to challenge assumptions, to listen to alternative points of view (not with the intention of finding fault but with the aim of understanding other perspectives), to expose one’s own arguments to scrutiny and to seek out diversity. As an academic, my experience as a student at Aberdeen taught me that it is possible for lecturers to enable students to flourish by building their confidence (not just by imparting knowledge and skills), and this informs my academic practice today.


To discover more about Professor McIntosh and her work, see: