Dr. Chris Shannahan

Prior to joining Coventry University in 2015 Chris Shannahan was the head of Religious Education in a large East London Secondary school; a youth worker in the East End of London and Trenchtown, Jamaica; a Methodist Minister in inner-city London and Birmingham and a community organiser. This grassroots experience provided the grounding for his research in urban theology, sociology of religion and diversity studies and the basis of his PhD, within which he developed the first critical analysis of urban theology in the UK (2008, University of Birmingham). On completing his doctorate he became a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and then a Teaching Fellow at the University of Birmingham (2009-2012) where he developed a major ethnographic project working alongside unemployed young men on a large Birmingham housing estate. In 2013 he moved to the University of Manchester to take up the position of Lecturer in Religions and Theology.

His first monograph, Voices from the Borderland (2010) was described as a ‘ground-breaking’ example of cross-cultural urban theology and is a set text at Universities and Theological Colleges in the UK, the USA and Australia. His second monograph, A Theology of Community Organizing (2013) provided the first systematic theological analysis of broad-based community organising. His research also utilises Hip-Hop culture as a discourse of meaning, as seen in his 2012 partnership with the street artist Mohammed ‘aerosol’ Ali on his ‘Bromford Dreams – Graffiti Spiritualities’ action research project.


Journal Articles

Selected Comment Pieces, Reports and Media

  • Youth social exclusion and discourses of religion on urban housing estates. 2 ½ year ethnographic research project working alongside unemployed 16-24 year old young men [‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’ – N.E.E.T] on a large housing estate in the city of Birmingham and the youth organisation ‘Worth Unlimited’. The project analyses the impact that the experience of multidimensional social exclusion had on the ways in which the young men spoke and thought about identity, community, spirituality, social cohesion and the future.
  • Bromford Dreams – Graffiti Spiritualities. Action Research project arising from ‘Youth Social Exclusion’ ethnographic project working alongside the street artist Mohammed ‘aerosol’ Ali. The project drew upon the cultural resonance of hip-hop culture and particularly graffiti art amongst unemployed young men on the Bromford housing estate in Birmingham. Following a series of street art workshops, working alongside Mohammed Ali and myself the young men built, designed and painted a large graffiti cube [‘Bromford Dreams’], which was featured on BBC Television news and then exhibited on the housing estate before being sited on the campus of the University of Birmingham for one year. The project culminated with a rap music concert in which the young men performed their own music and a major conference ‘Bromford Dreams and Graffiti Spiritualities’ at the University of Birmingham.
  • Faith-based Community Organising – ‘Power to the People’. A long term ethnographic and political theology project analysing the development, values and impact of community organising in the USA and the UK and the ways in which this model of civil society politics provided faith-groups to translate religious commitments to social justice and community building into practical and effective action. The interdisciplinary project drew on drew on political theology and gave rise to the first serious theological monograph analysing community organising as a vehicle for faith-based activism to be published on either of the Atlantic (see Outputs above).
  • Birmingham Urban Theology Forum. Knowledge exchange project aimed at developing a network, which built bridges between the academy and faith and community groups in Birmingham and a forged a shared space for critical self-reflection on a range of key urban challenges/issues and the ways in which faith groups engaged with them. Four podcast seminars were held each calendar year, each focusing on a specific issue/theme. Between 2009 and 2012 the network grew to involve over 250 practitioners and academics.
Coventry University No.1 Modern University No.1 Modern University in the Midlands
Coventry University awarded TEF GOLD Teaching Excellence Framework
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2020
Coventry City of Culture 2021