Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion

Harvey Whitehouse is an anthropologist whose research focuses on the evolution of social complexity. One of the founders of the cognitive science of religion, Harvey is well known for his theory of “modes of religiosity,” which explains how the frequency and emotional intensity of collective rituals influence the scale and structure of religious organisations. He is Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford and a Professorial Fellow of Magdalen College.

For more information about Harvey’s work, please visit




Deputy Director


Deputy Director

Pieter François is an Associate Professor in Cultural Evolution, and Fellow in Anthropology and Tutor for Graduates at St. Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford. His work focuses on travel and migration in the nineteenth century and on the evolution of social complexity, ritual and warfare. Together with Professor Peter Turchin (UConn) and Professor Harvey Whitehouse (Oxford) he founded the Seshat: Global History Databank in 2011. In 2013 he won the British Library Labs competition with his Sample Generator for Digitized Texts.

For more information about Pieter's work, please visit PieterFrancois.



Lab Group Leaders

Julia Ebner

Cohesion and Violence Lab Group Leader 

Dr Julia Ebner is a researcher specialising in radicalisation, extremism and terrorism studies.

She is a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Calleva Centre of Evolution and Human Sciences at the University of Oxford (Magdalen College) and a Research Affiliate at the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion. Julia completed her DPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford as a fully funded ESRC DTP Scholar and a St John’s College Alumni Fund Scholar. Her DPhil research was a finalist for the ESRC Impact Prize 2023 and won the MRS President’s Medal 2023.

After completing a dual master’s degree in international relations and history at LSE and Peking University, Julia worked as a researcher for the Quilliam Foundation and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue for several years. On the basis of her research on extremist movements and activities in the UK, Europe and North America, she acted as a Special Advisor on Terrorism Prevention for the United Nations and has given evidence to parliamentary working groups, intelligence agencies and tech companies. On the side, she works as an investigative journalist and writer, regularly contributing to The GuardianThe IndependentThe Washington Post and other outlets.

Julia's first book The Rage: The Vicious Circle of Islamist and Far-Right Extremism (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017) received the 2018 Bruno Kreisky Award for the Political Book of the Year 2018 and was translated into several languages. Her second internationally bestselling book Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives of Extremists (Bloomsbury) was a Telegraph Book of the Year 2020 and won the "Science Book of the Year 2020" prize ("Wissenschaftsbuch des Jahres 2020") as well as the Dr Caspar Einem Prize. Her latest book Going Mainstream: How Extremists Are Taking Over (Ithaka Press) was released in 2023. 


Martha Newson

Football and Reform Lab Group Leader

Dr Martha Newson is a researcher who has worked with football fans extensively in the UK, Australia, Brazil, and Indonesia to tackle questions of loyalty, intergroup violence, perceived kinship, stress, social adjustment, and self-sacrifice. She currently conducts long-term research on group bonding, prison behaviour, and reoffending with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and the Ministry of Justice in the UK, in which prisoners enrol on football-based interventions led by major football clubs, supported by the Twinning Project. She is also leading projects with fundamentalist Muslims, women in prison, and football fans.