Universiteit Leiden

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Markus Davidsen

University Lecturer

Dr. M.A. Davidsen
+31 71 527 2582

CV and full list of publications

Fields of interest

My research interests include new religions and alternative spirituality, sociology of religion, semiotic and cognitive approaches to religion, and method in the study of religion. In my current project I employ online ethnographic methods to study ‘fiction-based religions’, especially religions based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary mythology or on George Lucas’  Star Wars films. The theoretical issues central to this project are textual persuasion, religious blending, and processes of rationalisation and legitimisation; I draw on comparative religion, narratology, and cognitive semiotics to address these issues.


I am willing to supervise BA, MA and PhD theses in the following empirical fields: new religions and alternative spirituality, contemporary religion, religious education. Furthermore, I am willing to supervise any project on religion (regardless of empirical focus) that makes extensive use of cognitive, semiotic, and/or narratological theory.


  • PhD (cum laude) in the Study of Religion, Leiden University (2014). Dissertation title: “  The Spiritual Tolkien Milieu: A Study of Fiction-based Religion”. A limited number of printed copies of the dissertation are available for sale: 15€ for LU students, 30€ for others.
  • MA in the Study of Religion, Aarhus University, Denmark (2008).
  • Erasmus exchange student, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (2007).
  • BA, in the Study of Religion with a Minor in Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology, Aarhus University, Denmark (2005).


  • University Lecturer (universitair docent), Sociology of Religion, Leiden University (since 2015).
  • Teaching Associate (docent), Sociology of Religion and New Religions, Leiden University (since 2011-2015).
  • PhD candidate, Aarhus University and Leiden University (2009-2012).
  • Instructor, Aarhus University (2004-2007). [History of Religion (2004), Introduction to the Study of Religion (2005-2006), Philosophy of Science (2005), Religion and Modern Media (2007)].

Teaching activities

I teach various courses in sociology of religion, new religions/alternative spirituality, and theory in study of religion:  I currently teach the following courses:

  • Tools and Theories in the Study of Religion: Historical, Cognitive and Social-Scientific Approaches (MA)
  • Master Thesis Seminar (MA)
  • New Religions (BA)
  • Sociology of Religion (BA)
  • Fiction, Parody and Play in New Religions (BA)

Key publication

Davidsen, Markus Altena (2016), “The Religious Affordance of Supernatural Fiction: A Semiotic Approach”, Religion 46(4), 521-549.

Research articles

  • 2015. “In de Ban van Tolkien: Geloof en Geloven in Tolkien-spiritualiteit”, Religie & Samenleving 10(3), 213-234.

  • 2013. “Fiction-based Religion: Conceptualising a New Category against History-based Religion and Fandom”,  Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14(4), 378-395.

  • 2012. “Future Directions in the Sociology of Non-institutional Religion”,  Implicit Religion 15(4), 553-570.

  • 2012. “What is Wrong with Pagan Studies?”,  Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 24(2), 183-199.

  • 2012. “The Spiritual Milieu Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Literary Mythology”. In A. Possamai (ed.),  Handbook of Hyper-real Religions. Leiden: Brill. 185-204.

Grants and awards

  • Danish Research Council for Independent Research (Humanities), 3-year international PhD scholarship (EUR 184,485), 2009-2012.
  • Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus Students (EUR 5,000) , 2009.

Administration and service to the profession

Secretary, Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG), since 2012; board member since 2009.

University Lecturer

  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • LUCSoR

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 1
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 0.04b



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