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  2. Dr Maria Nita

Dr Maria Nita

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Educational Academy in the UK, having originally trained as a philologist in Romania. I came to live in the UK in 2000, where I gained an MA in Contemporary Religion (Distinction) and a PhD in Religious Studies. I am presently researching and writing on subjects intersecting cultural theory and the anthropology of religion, as I continue to be fascinated by language and folklore, as well as biosemiotic approaches to understanding culture. Before starting my permanent employment at The Open University, in 2021, I held different short- and long-term contracts at several universities in the UK, among which the University of Birmingham, the University of South Wales, Oxford Brookes University and Bath Spa University. My present research is focused on climate activism and contemporary spirituality, Green Christian practices, public rituals, as well as art and performance festivals more broadly. 

Research interests

My current research is centred on climate activism, sustainability and storytelling, particularly in relation to religious practices. My new projects have looked at Extinction Rebellion activism in connection with funerary rites, as I have been interrogating new extinction rituals. More broadly I am interested in the British counterculture and the cultural processes that enabled its development, in the West. As such, I am interested in the early festival culture that developed during the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the UK. In my recent work I have investigated practices and discourses that facilitate cultural change and I am also conducting ethnographic research inside the Extinction Rebellion Movement, via participant observation. I am particularly interested in the artistic and performative dimensions in this movement and the impact of these activities on both the rebels and the public. Other research interests include: green Islam, green prayers and rituals, and spirituality in health environments.  

Publications

Book: 

2016   Praying and Campaigning with Environmental Christians: Green Religion and the Climate Movement. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-60035-6 

Chapters in books: 

2020. “‘Inside Story’ Participatory Storytelling and Imagination in Eco-pedagogical Contexts”, in Storytelling for Sustainability in Higher Education: An Educator’s Handbook, edited by Petra Molthan-Hill, P., Heather Luna, Tony Wall, T., Helen Puntha and Denise Baden. Oxon & New York: Routledge, 154-167. 

2017An Altar inside a Circle: A Relational Model for Investigating Green Christians’ Experiments with Sacred Space’, in Material Religion: The Stuff of the Sacred, edited by Timothy Hutchings and Jo McKenzie, London: Routledge, 133-151. 

2014Christian and Muslim Climate Activists Fasting and Praying for the Planet’, in How the World’s Religions are Responding to Climate Change, edited by Robin Globus-Veldman, Andrew Szasz and Rondolph Haluza-DeLay, New York: Routledge, 229-243. 

Peer reviewed articles:   

2020. 'Counterculture, Local Authorities and British Christianity at the Windsor and Watchfield Free Festivals (1972–5)', Twentieth Century British History. 31 (1): 51 -78, doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/hwy053.  (Maria Nita and Sharif Gemie). 

2019. ‘Sky vs. Earthly Empowerment: From Angels and Superheroes to Humans and Community in the Marvel Universe and Green Christian Cosmology’, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture31 (3): 236-249. doi.org/10.3138/jrpc.2018-0001. 

2019. ‘Spirituality in Health Studies: Competing Spiritualities and the Elevated Status of Mindfulness’, Religion and Health. DOI: 10.1007/s10943-019-00773-2. First published online, printed version forthcoming [online] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-019-00773-2 

2018. ‘Christian Discourses and Cultural Change: The Greenbelt Art and Performance Festival as an Alternative Community for Green and Liberal Christians’, Implicit Religion. 21 (1): 44-69. DOI.org.10.1558/imre.37354. 

Online articles, blogs and vlogs:   

2021. ‘Divination as Storytelling: Dealing (with) Death and Extinction’, Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective, Open University [online] http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/religious-studies/?p=1202

2020. ‘High religiosity and “resisting” Covid 19 governmental advice in Romania’, Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective, Open University [online] http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/religious-studies/?p=1044 

2019. 'Where are Extinction Rebellion's Cultural Roots?', Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective, Open University [online] http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/religious-studies/?p=980  

2018. ‘Humour, Concealment and Death Mindfulness in Romanian Funerals’, Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective, Open University [online] http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/religious-studies/?p=676  

2018. ‘Balneoterapia in Europa [Hydrotherapy in Europe]’, Techirghiol, IV (12) (October 2018) [online] https://sbtghiol.ro/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/techirghiol12-site.pdf  

2017. ‘Summer of Love as a Turning Point in Festival Culture’, The Summer of Love Open University Series, Open University [online] http://bit.ly/MariaNitaSummerofLoveVlog  

2012. ‘Creation Spirituality’, Encyclopaedia of The Bible and its Reception, edited by Bernard McGinn. Boston and Berlin: Walter de Gruyter [online] https://www.degruyter.com/view/EBR/MainLemma_40576 

2011. ‘Occupy Religion’, in Open Learn, Open University [online] https://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/religious-studies/religion-occupied   

Book reviews: 

2019. ‘Sustainability and the Humanities’, edited by Walter Leal Filho and Adriana Consorte McCrea. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. Green Letters. DOI: 10.1080/14688417.2019.1639972.  

2019. ‘Minority Religions in Europe and the Middle East: Mapping and Monitoring’, edited by George D. Chryssides. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2019. (forthcoming) Fieldwork in Religion. 

2017. ‘Ritual: Key Concepts in Religion Series’, edited by Pamela J. Steward and Andrew Strathern in Fieldwork in Religion, 12 (1): 133 -134.    

2015. ‘The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements’, edited by George D. Chryssides, and Benjamin E. Zeller in Fieldwork in Religion, 9 (1): 103-105.   

2015. ‘The Ashgate Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements’, edited by Eileen Barker in Fieldwork in Religion, 9 (2): 224-228.   

Teaching interests

I am currently teaching on two modules: ‘A332: Why is Religion Controversial?’ and  ‘A227: Exploring Religion: Places, Practices, Texts and Experiences’. My past teaching experience, at the University of Birmingham, the University of South Wales, Bath Spa University and Oxford Brookes University, was broadly focused on teaching Christianity and Islam, both in historical perspective and in the contemporary world, alongside New Religious Movements and Alternative Spiritualities. 

External collaborations

I am presently collaborating with colleagues in the UK, as well as international scholars in Romania, Hungary and Canada, on a variety of projects and funding bids, concerned with art and performance activities, sustainability and digital humanities. I am particularly interested in conducting research in my native Romania.

Publications

Praying and Campaigning with Environmental Christians: Green Religion and the Climate Movement (2016)
Nita, Maria
ISBN : 978-1-137-60034-9 | Publisher : Palgrave | Published : New York


“‘Inside Story’ Participatory Storytelling and Imagination in Eco-pedagogical Contexts” (2020-04-15)
Nita, Maria
In: Molthan-Hill, Petra; Luna, Heather; Wall, Tony; Puntha, Helen and Baden, Denise eds. Storytelling for Sustainability in Higher Education: An Educator’s Handbook (pp. 154-167)
ISBN : 9780367260262 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon


An Altar inside a Circle: A Relational Model for Investigating Green Christians’ Experiments with Sacred Space (2018-06-08)
Nita, Maria
In: Hutchings, Tim and McKenzie, Joanne eds. Material Religion: The Stuff of the Sacred (pp. 133-151)
ISBN : 9781138599932 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Christian and Muslim Climate Activists Fasting and Praying for the Planet (2014)
Nita, Maria
In: Globus-Veldman, Robin; Szasz, Andrew and Haluza-DeLay, Rondolph eds. How the World’s Religions are Responding to Climate Change (pp. 229-243)
ISBN : 9781138656536 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York