Education and Early Career
Whitehouse received his B.A. Degree in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 1985. He completed his PhD in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in 1990 under the supervision of Ernest Gellner and Gilbert Lewis.
After carrying out two years of field research on a 'cargo cult' in New Britain, Papua New Guinea in the late nineties, he developed a theory of ‘modes of religiosity’ that has been the subject of extensive critical evaluation and testing by anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, and cognitive scientists.
The modes of religiosity theory seeks to explain the role of ritual in group formation and social and cultural evolution. Two modes are distinguished: imagistic and doctrinal. In the imagistic mode, important rituals are infrequent, highly emotionally arousing, and tend to generate tight knit local groups with low levels of orthodoxy and dynamic leadership. In the doctrinal mode, rituals are frequent, relatively tame, and produce larger, anonymous but expandable communities with higher levels of orthodoxy and dynamic leadership.
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