Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am interested in supervising students on the following topics:
• Popular/grassroots Christianity in China
• Pentecostalism in Chinese contexts
• Religious policy in China
• Life cycle/life course events in Chinese societies
• Chinese Christianity/Chinese churches in Scotland
• Ethnographies of Chinese society

Personal profile


Dr Mark McLeister was appointed as Lecturer in Chinese Studies in 2015. He joined the University of Edinburgh in September 2012 as Senior Teaching Fellow and then took up the post of Early Career Fellow in 2013.

Mark trained in Social Anthropology (MA Hons) at the University of St. Andrews (1996-2000) before taking up a position for a Chinese NGO where his work involved teacher-training and education programme development. He then took up a faculty position at a Chinese university, teaching English language, English for Academic Purposes and cross-cultural communication. In 2008, Mark completed an MSc in Chinese Business/International Relations at the University of Sheffield. He completed his PhD in Chinese Studies (University of Sheffield) in 2013. His PhD research was an ethnographic account of church-state interactions in contemporary urban China. Before coming to Edinburgh, Mark lectured and tutored both at the University of Sheffield and the University of Leeds on aspects of contemporary Chinese society, Chinese politics, conducting business in a Chinese context and Chinese language. Mark's teaching at the University of Edinburgh focuses on the ethnography of Chinese society, religion in China, ethnographic methods and research skills.

Research Interests

Dr McLeister's PhD explored the interactions between Protestant Three-Self-affiliated ('TSPM') churches and the local state. He argues that informal channels created through symbiotic interactions between churches and local state organs provide space for churches to conduct officially-prohibited religious activities.

His principal research interests include the anthropology of Christianity, interactions between religion and the state in Chinese societies and issues affecting state-society relations in contemporary China. Within these broader fields, his research centres on popular Christianity and Protestant identities in Chinese society, and Pentecostalism in Chinese contexts.

Mark also has a broad research interest in ethnography and ethnographic methods which he also employs extensively in his own research.

Current research projects focus on the idiom of the family/household within Chinese Protestantism. He is currently working on an article about festivals in Three-Self-affiliated churches and the ritual exchange of groups who perform at festival gatherings. He has also recently embarked on a new project exploring the practices and meanings of Protestant Christian names in the PRC.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Negotiating Policy and Practice: A Micro-Level Analysis of Three-Self Churches in a Coastal Chinese City, University of Sheffield

Award Date: 1 Jan 2013

Master of Science, Chinese Communist Party Rule as Political Religion: A Critical Analysis, University of Sheffield

Award Date: 1 Jan 2008

Master of Arts, Rites of Passage: Growing Up in Inverness, University of St Andrews

Award Date: 1 Jan 2000


  • BR Christianity
  • Anthropology of Christianity
  • church-state interactions
  • Chinese Protestantism
  • Pentecostalism
  • Protestant identity
  • World Christianity
  • state-society relations
  • Chinese society
  • political religion
  • disability
  • religious identity
  • ethnography


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