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Robbins Lecture 2023

On 14 June, we were honoured to welcome Dr Rita Nakashima Brock to give the Robbins Lecture 2023. You can watch it here:

Unbinding Souls: The Use of Ritual in Moral Injury, by Rita Nakashima Brock

Ritual has been largely underestimated in the research and writing on recovery strategies for moral injury. This neglect is somewhat surprising, given that the term originated to describe the moral suffering of military veterans who, as recruits, experienced the power of ritual—in just weeks— to change them into military units able to prosecute wars and perform in ways that may violate their personal moral values.

Through examples drawn from an evidence-based moral injury recovery program developed for veterans by Volunteers of America, Dr Brock explored how ritual can help military personnel and others who work in high stakes situations recover from morally challenging experiences. 

In tracing the origins of moral injury in mental health research, which is a medicalised model of treatment, Dr Brock described how ritual and religion can also be important aspects of supporting recovery from what are spiritual, moral and psychic wounds. In making the case for the potency of both sectarian and generic “spiritual but not religious” rituals, Dr Brock focussed on anthropological, cross-cultural research on ritual and described how it uses human capacities for empathy, imagination, play, creativity and hope to enable recovery for individuals without requiring them to change themselves.

The Robbins Lecture 2023 was organised by the Michael Ramsey Centre for Anglican Studies and the International Centre for Moral Injury at Durham University, UK.