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Professor of Religious and Secular Studies, Lancaster University

Kim is interested in the things, places, events and groups that people hold to be sacred. She is interested in how these are expressed in people’s beliefs and values, in public rhetoric, rituals, the built environment and the media. When do they become matters of contention, conflict or a threat to security?

Her background is in the history and sociology of religions, and she has researched and directed projects on migration and diasporas, media portrayals, the urban sacred, religion in modern Britain, and religious/secular relations. She developed a spatial methodology for studying religion which has been widely used internationally.

In CREST, Kim leads research on how ideas, beliefs and values are transmitted in different contexts, and the role they play in regulating behaviour.

Personal webpage

Project information

CREST’s work is structured by five Programmes of activity. You can find out more information about our core programmes, as well as our commissioned projects here.

Kim Knott leads the Ideas, Beliefs And Values In Social Context programme. Read more about this project here.

Recent publications

Knott, K. (2016) Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction, 131pp, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Second edition.
Vasquez, M. & Knott, K. (2014) ‘Three Dimensions of Religious Place-Making in Diaspora’. Special Issue: The Religious Lives of Migrant Minorities: A Multi-Sited and Transnational Perspective. Global Networks 14:3, 326–347.
Knott, K. (2014) ‘Religious Differentiation and Diversity in Discourse and Practice’, in S. Vertovec (ed) Routledge International Handbook of Diversity Studies. London and New York: Routledge.
Knott, K., Francis, M., Reader, I. & Aechtner, R. (2014) Threat Group Case Study: Aum Shinrikyo, TIN 3.073 Final Report. 33pp.
Knott, K., Poole, E. & Taira, T. (2013) Media Portrayals of Religion and the Secular Sacred: Representation and Change. 226pp. Farnham: Ashgate.
Knott, K. (2013) ‘The Secular Sacred: In-Between or Both/And?’ In A. Day, G. Vincett & C. Cotter (eds). Social Identities between the Sacred and the Secular. Farnham: Ashgate. 145-160.
Knott, K. & Mitchell, J. (2012) ‘Changing Faces of Religion And Media’. In L. Woodhead & R. Catto (eds). Religion and Change in Modern Britain. London and New York, Routledge. 243-64.
Taira, T., Poole, E. & Knott, K. (2012) ‘Religion in the British Media Today’. In J. Mitchell and O. Gower (eds). Religion and the News. Farnham, Ashgate, 31-43.
Knott, K. (2011) ‘Spatial Theory for the Study of Religion’. Religion and Place. Wiley special issue on the geography and sociology of religion.
Knott, K. & McLoughlin, S. (eds) (2010) Diasporas: Concepts, Identities, Intersections. 391pp, London and New York, Zed Books.
Francis, M. & Knott, K. (2010) ‘Return? It Never Left. Exploring the “Sacred” as a Resource for Bridging the Gap Between the Religious and the Secular’, Islam and Religious Norms in the Public Sphere.
Knott, K., McFadyen, A., McLoughlin, S. & Francis, M. (2006) The Roots, Practices and Consequences of Terrorism: A Literature Review of Research in the Arts & Humanities. 92pp. University of Leeds (for the Home Office).
Knott, K. Moving People, Changing Places,
Knott, K. Diasporas, Migration and Identities,



Applying the Study of Religions in the Security Domain: Knowledge, Skills, and Collaboration

Since the 1990s, scholars of religion on both sides of the Atlantic have been drawn into engagement with law enforcement agencies and security policymakers and practitioners, particularly for their expertise on new religious movements and Islam. Whilst enabling researchers to contribute to real-world challenges, this relationship has had its frustrations and difficulties, as well as its benefits and opportunities. Drawing on examples from the UK, Canada, and the US, I set out the relationship between religion and the contemporary security landscape before discussing some of the key issues arising in security research partnerships. I then turn to the question of knowledge exchange and translation in the study of religions, developing the distinction between ‘know what’ (knowledge about religions and being religiously literate), ‘know why’ (explaining religions and making the link to security threats), and ‘know how’ (researcher expertise and skills in engagement with practitioners).

(From the journal abstract)

Kim Knott. 2018. ‘Applying the Study of Religions in the Security Domain: Knowledge, Skills, and Collaboration’. Journal of Religious and Political Practice, 4 (3): 354–73.

Author: Kim Knott
Ideological Transmission in Extremist Contexts: Towards a Framework of How Ideas Are Shared

Despite their centrality in academic and policy debates about radicalization and political violence, ideologies have been conceived narrowly, as cognitive, top-down, coherent and systematic.

In general, those who have used the concept of ideology have failed to draw on ideological theory or on recent insights about its practice and embodiment, or location in space and time.

Our interest is less in the content of ideology than in how it is shared by those for whom it matters. We offer an interpretive framework, based on six key questions about ideological transmission: What ideas, beliefs, and values are shared, how and why, by whom, and in which spatial and temporary contexts?

Following a discussion about the methodological pros and cons of the framework, it is tested on a series of interviews with members of Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese religious group responsible for the Tokyo subway attack in 1995. We assess the strengths and limitations of the framework for analysing the various dimensions of ideological transmission before considering what it adds to our understanding of the relationship between extreme beliefs and violent behaviour.

(From the journal abstract)

Benjamin Lee, Kim Knott. (2022) Fascist aspirants: Fascist Forge and ideological learning in the extreme-right online milieu. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression 14:3, pages 216-240.

Authors: Kim Knott, Ben Lee
Tips for Connecting Your Research with the Media

During the Religion and Diversity Project’s 2015 annual team meeting, team members and local journalists came together for a panel on presenting research results to the media. Following the lively discussion, on the basis of our experience of researching and working with the media, we were asked to identify key points for communicating research in the press, on radio and television. Here are our top five tips for media engagement, contextualized by our experiences and professional backgrounds.

(From the journal abstract)

Knott, K., & Lefebvre, S. (2016). Tips for Connecting Your Research with the Media. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 45(1), 32–34. 

Author: Kim Knott
Fascist aspirants: Fascist Forge and ideological learning in the extreme-right online milieu

Learning in extremist settings is often treated as operational, with little regard to how aspiring participants in extremist settings engage with complex and abstract ideological material. This paper examines learning in the context of the amorphous network of digital channels that compose the extreme-right online milieu. Through an in-depth qualitative analysis, we explore how well the prevailing model of extremist ideological learning (in ‘communities of practice’) accounts for the behaviour of aspiring participants of Fascist Forge, a now-defunct extreme-right web forum. The findings suggest that some of the social aspects of communities of practice have been replicated in the online setting of Fascist Forge. However, for a combination of technical and ideological reasons, the more directed and nurturing aspects of learning have not. Several issues are raised about the role of ideological learning in online communities, notably the open accessibility of extremist material, the lack of ideological control leading to potential mutation and innovation by self-learners, and the role of digital learning in the preparation, shaping and recruitment of individuals for real world organising and activism.

(From the journal abstract)

Lee, B., & Knott, K. (2021). Fascist aspirants: Fascist Forge and ideological learning in the extreme-right online milieu. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 1–25.

Authors: Ben Lee, Kim Knott

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