About

I am an independent researcher in Disability Studies and Sociology of Religion. I completed a PhD in Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London in 2019. My book At the Gates: Disability, Justice and the Churches (2022, co-written with Emily Richardson) is based on my PhD research with disabled Christians, and was longlisted for the Michael Ramsey Prize. I have taught courses in the Study of Religions, Research Methods and Gender Studies. Alongside ongoing research into disability, churches and Christianity, I work as a freelance researcher in the voluntary sector and as a disability equality trainer and access consultant.

My PhD was a qualitative participatory research study into the experiences of disabled Christians in churches, together with analysis of the discourses and ideologies of disability that participants encountered in church settings and in relation to the Bible, and how these relate to normalcy, the body and Foucault’s theory of the pastoral model.

Education

PhD in Study of Religions from SOAS, University of London (Supervisor: Sian Hawthorne)

MA in Disability Studies from University of Leeds (Centre for Disability Studies)

Other Publications

Books

Jacobs, N.L. and Richardson, E.  At the Gates: Disability, Justice and the Churches. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2022.

Articles

Jacobs, N.L. (2023). Speaking With Us, Not For Us: Neurodiversity, Theology and Justice. Journal of Disability and Religion, 27(4), 584-605, doi:10.1080/23312521.2023.2249448. Preprint available at https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/2f5sr.

Jacobs, N.L. (2022). A Story Like Mine. Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability, 2(2), 132-142, https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/cjtmhd/article/view/39551.

Jacobs, N.L. (2022). A Man with a Mission: Mark 1:40-45 and ‘Mission With’ Disabled People. ANVIL Journal of Theology and Mission, 38(1), https://churchmissionsociety.org/anvil/man-with-a-mission-naomi-lawson-jacobs-anvil-vol-38-issue-1/.

Book Chapter

Jacobs, N.L. ‘The Cult of Health and Wholeness: Normalcy and the Charismatic Christian Healing Movement.’ In Theorising Normalcy: Precarious Positions, ed. Mallett, R., Ogden, C.A. and Slater, J., 202-227. Chester: Chester University Press, 2016.

Policy Research Reports

Lisney, E., Jacobs, N., Parker, L., Perry, F. and Vogelmann, E. The Impact of COVID-19 on Disabled Women. London: Sisters of Frida, 2020.

Gulyurtlu, S., Jacobs, N. and Evans, I. The Impact of Children’s Play in Hospital. London: Starlight Children’s Foundation, 2020.

Conference Presentations/Guest Lectures (selected)

Disabled People’s Challenge to Power in Theology. BSA Sociology of Religion (SocRel) Conference, Bristol University, 6-8 July 2023. Poster.

Waiting at the Church Gates: Theology and Power in the Experiences of Disabled Christians. In: Space for Interpretation: Reclaiming Disabled Power in Narratives of Belief. Centre for Culture and Disability Studies Annual Conference, Liverpool Hope University, 5 July 2023. Panel presentation (co-convenor).

Threshold Spaces: Enabling Disabled People’s Marginalised Theologies. Annual Conference of the Institute of Theology and Disability, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, 26-29 June 2023. Online presentation.

Power and Participation in Research with Disabled Christians in the UK. MPhil/PhD Summer School, Dept of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Chester, 2 June 2023. Guest lecturer.

From Participants to Storytellers: Collaborative Research Dissemination and Ownership of Knowledge among Disabled Christians. British Sociological Association Annual Conference: Sociological Voices in Public Discourse, University of Manchester, 12-14 April 2023. Presentation.

Storytelling from the Threshold: Research with Disabled Christians in the UK. Dept of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research Seminar Series, University of Kent, 19 Jan 2023. Guest lecturer.

Disability and Power in the Church of England. Seminar in the ‘Power and the Church of England’ series, Michael Ramsay Centre for Anglican Studies, Durham University, 7 December 2021. Invited panel speaker.

Scholarly Colloquium on Neurodiversity and Christian Youth Work. Princeton Theological Seminary, 6 December 2021. Invited contributor to curriculum planning event for ‘Cultivating God’s Brainforest’ course.

‘Vulnerability’ and Research Ethics: The Gatekeepers and The Gatekept. MPhil/PhD Seminar, Dept of Sociology, University of Leeds, 6 March 2020. Guest lecturer.

Disabled People “Have Their Own Stories to Tell”: Lived Disability Theology and Self-Determination. British Association of the Study of Religions Conference, University of Chester, 4-6 September 2017. Presentation.

Normalcy in Academia: The Exclusion of Disabled Staff and Graduate Students in Academia Today. Lancaster Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster University, 6-8 Sept 2016. Panel discussion (chair/convenor).

“I Stopped Listening to Any Teaching”: Disability Theology and ‘Ordinary’ Disabled Readers of the Bible in the UK. Annual Meeting of the European Association of Biblical Studies, KU Leuven, 17-20 July 2016. Presentation.

Reinforcing Normalcy: Faith Healing and Disabled People. Religion, Gender and Politics: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives Conference, International Association for the Study of Religion and Gender, Utrecht University, Netherlands, 12-14 February 2015. Presentation and panel discussion (co-convenor).

‘Welcome’ or ‘Come Well’? Christian Churches and Disability. Society, Religion and Belief Research Group Seminar, University of Derby, 2 April 2014. Guest lecturer.

The Christian Healing Movement. Precarious Positions: 4th International Conference of Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane, Sheffield Hallam University, 3-4 September 2013. Presentation.

Transgressive Textual Practices: Disability, Embodiment and the Gospels. New Directions in Social Scientific and Cultural Studies Approaches in Biblical Studies Symposium, University of Derby, 9 July 2011. Presentation.

Book Reviews

Jacobs, N.L. (2013). ‘Disability Studies and Biblical Literature.’ Disability & Society, 28(2), 289-291. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2012.747820.

Jacobs, N.L. (2012). A Theological Diagnosis: A New Direction on Genetic Therapy, “Disability” and the Ethics of Healing. Disability and Society, 27(1), 151-152. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2012.631805.

Jacobs, N.L. (2010). Ageing, Disability and Spirituality: Addressing the Challenge of Disability in Later Life. Disability and Society 25(4), 513-217. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687591003756235.

Knowledge Exchange (selected)

At the Gates: Sharing the Stories of Disabled Christians. St Paul’s Cathedral, 6 June 2023. Panel discussion with Emily Richardson.

Jacobs, N.L. ‘Disability and God’s Justice.’ Modern Church, 21 November 2022.

Wholly, Holey, Holy: Inclusive Church/SMITF 11th Annual Disability Conference, 15 Oct 2022. Panel discussion with Samuel Wells and Emily Richardson. Conference report by Emily Richardson.

Disability Justice in the Church. Preach Magazine, 31 Aug 2022. Online discussion with Emily Richardson.

Disability and Church: Intersectionality. Church Times/HeartEdge webinar, 24 May 2022. Panel discussion with Lamar Hardwick, Fiona MacMillan, Rachel Mann, and Jonathan Evens.

Jacobs, N.L. ‘Disabled People are Worthy of Love.’ Lacuna, 25 June 2020.

Jacobs, N.L. ‘Disabled People Say Welcome to our World.’ Church Times, 1 May 2020.

Jacobs, N.L (2019). The Upside-Down Kingdom Of God: Stories of Disabled Christians in Churches. A booklet summary of findings from my PhD research with disabled Christians, written in accessible language.

Uncovering the Roof: Research About Disability and Christian Churches in the UK. Inclusive Church/SMITF 5th Annual Disability Conference, St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London, 17 October 2015. Accessible poster and presentation.

Blog Posts

    Projects

    Call for Papers – Space for Interpretation: Reclaiming Disabled Power in Narratives of Belief (Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies)

    Despite the interest from disability scholars in many domains of society, there has been very little research on disabled people’s experiences of religion and belief in disability studies (Lewis, 2007, Creamer, 2006)… Boundaries exclude, and so in this special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, we will discuss the importance of creating spaces that allow disabled believers to share knowledge from socially located perspectives, in contrast with those promoted by traditional textual interpretations, theological discourses or broader religious narratives. Through reframing and challenging the power relations at work in faith communities and their theological traditions regarding disability we will question the positioning of disabled believers of various faiths as marginal in faith communities and in wider theological and interpretive conversations, by centering disabled voices and experiences within our fields of enquiry.

    See full CfP here for more details. Deadline for proposals: 31 January 2024.

    Memberships

    National Coalition of Independent Scholars
    American Academy of Religions
    British Sociological Association
    Social Research Association

    Naomi Lawson Jacobs

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