Dr Richard Irvine

Dr Richard Irvine

Director of Teaching

Senior Lecturer

Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 1857



My research interests span environmental anthropology and the anthropology of religion, and I carry out fieldwork in the UK and Mongolia.

In my recent projects I have examined land use change, energy transitions, and the way that people learn about (and evade) environmental risk. Out of this has grown an interest in the disjuncture between human rhythms and the deep time of geological processes, which I explore in my book An Anthropology of Deep Time (Cambridge University Press, 2020). At what temporal resolution should we view human activity? In order to understand the processes of change that shape the landforms under our feet and the resources upon which we depend, we need to think beyond the short-term time-horizons of rapid economic transactions and electoral cycles – the days, months, and years of biographical time. Yet, if we attempt to place human activity against the backdrop of the vast and gradual time-scale of Earth’s geological history, the temporal span of a life seems almost insignificant. How can we expand the time-depth of our understanding, recognising the long-term ecological and geological processes that are the conditions of our existence, while remaining sensitive to the temporality of human experience? 

In addition, I retain an interest in the study of religion. My PhD (University of Cambridge, 2011) examined Catholic religious life, and for my fieldwork I lived in an English Benedictine monastery, following the cycle of ritual, eating in silence, drinking tea, learning to read slowly, and making things in the carpentry workshop. Through this and subsequent research on the role of religious practice in apparently secular settings, I explore dynamics of rationalisation and unknowing. Currently, I am writing about the relevance of monastic accounts of the struggle with acedia for a contemporary understanding of isolation, despondency, and boredom.


The modules I convene are: Anthropology of Catastrophe; Anthropology and History; and Research Methods.

I am also currently chairing a review of our sub-honours curriculum. 

PhD supervision

  • Sharonne Specker
  • Tom Ovens
  • Bimbo Omopo

Selected publications


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