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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


M. Angélica Thumala Olave

M. Angélica Thumala Olave
Dr M. Angélica Thumala Olave
Lecturer in Global Sociology-Programme Co-Director, MSc Sociology and Global Change
3.22 18 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LN
+44 (0)131 650 6631
Research Interests
Cultural Sociology, Sociology of Religion, Consumption, Gender and Development, Catholicism, Secularisation, Elites, Culture and society in Latin America, Sociology of reading and writing

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Monday 2-4 or by appointment


Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Cambridge

M.A. in Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Warwick

B.A. in Sociology, Catholic University of Chile

Research interests

My work explores how cultural resources are mobilized for meaning-making, justification, and evaluation. My intellectual project concerns how individuals and groups draw upon (and also transform) cultural codes and frameworks to find justification and self-worth; how they produce meaningful accounts of their situation for themselves and others, and how these accounts are located within wider cultural structures. The overarching aim of this work has been to demonstrate the relative autonomy of culture vis-à-vis society, in particular the market. I have developed my ideas through several empirical areas that have a strong global dimension: religion, culture and society in Latin America, elites, consumption, and reading and writing practices.

I edit the journal Cultural Sociology (with colleagues Isabelle Darmon, Lisa McCormick and Nick Prior). 

Current research projects:

1. A cultural sociology of reading and writing. I explore the personal and political significance of reading and books in Latin America and the UK. The focus is on the ethical and existential dimensions of reading fiction; on self-understanding, ethical reflection, and self-care. I am also exploring self-justification in autobiographical writing among elites and the links between reading and critical capacity, utopian thought and political radicalisation. 

2. The Civil Sphere in Latin America. I examine the applicability of Jeffrey Alexander's Civil Sphere Theory to the case of Chile’s recent economic and political scandals. For details of the project see:

Edinburgh Research Explorer

Academia. edu



(2012) with Muñoz-Boudet, A.M; Petesch, P.; Turk, C. On Norms and Agency. Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries. Washington DC: IBRD/The World Bank.

(2007) Wealth and Piety. The Catholicism of Chile’s business elite. (Riqueza y piedad. El catolicismo de la elite económica chilena.) Santiago: Debate.

Peer-reviewed articles


(2017) "Reading Matters. Towards a cultural sociology of reading" American Journal of Cultural Sociology 

A view-only version


(2015) with Loader, I., Goold, B. "Grudge spending: the interplay between markets and culture in the purchase of security” The Sociological Review 63(4):858–875

(2015) with Goold, B. and Loader, I. “Tracking devices: On the reception of a novel security good”, Criminology and Criminal Justice 15 (1): 3-22 

(2014) with Loader, I. Goold, B. “The moral economy of security”, Theoretical Criminology 18(4): 469–488

(2013) with Goold, B., Loader, I.“The Banality of Security. The Curious Case of Surveillance Cameras”,  British Journal of Criminology 53, 977–996

(2011) with Goold, B. and I. Loader (2011) “A tainted trade?: Moral ambivalence and legitimation work in the private security industry”,  British Journal of Sociology, 62 (2):283-303

(2010) with Goold, B., I. Loader “Consuming security? Tools for a sociology of security consumption”,  Theoretical Criminology, 14 (1): 3-30


(2012) “The aristocracy of the will: a critique of Pierre Bourdieu with illustrations from Chile”, Social Compass 59 (1): 52-68

(2010) “The richness of ordinary life. Religious justification among Chile’s business elite”, Religion, 40 (1): 14-26

(2007) “Notions of Evil, the Devil and Sin among Chilean Businessmen”, Social Compass, 54 (4): 613-632

Chapters in books

(2018) "Civil indignation in Chile: Recent Collusion Scandals in the Retail industry" in The Civil Sphere in Latin America Ed. Jeffrey Alexander and Carlo Tognato. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 66-92

(2013) “El error de Milton Friedman: justificaciones religiosas y morales de la empresa en Chile”, in Adaptación, la empresa chilena después de Friedman (Eds.) J. Ossandón and E. Tironi. Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales.

(2011) “Distinción de base religiosa en la elite económica chilena” in A. Joignant and P. Guell (Eds.) Notables, tecnócratas y mandarines. Elementos de sociología de las élites en Chile, 1990-2010. Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales.

 (2009) “Cultura Militar y Demandas de Mercado: La Modernización de la Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil de Chile” in A. Portes (Ed.) Las Instituciones en el Desarrollo Latinoamericano: Un Estudio Comparado. México: Siglo XXI.

Book reviews, reports, and other publications

(2018) "American Guides: The Federal Writers’ Project and the Casting of American Culture by Wendy Griswold," American Journal of Sociology 123, no. 4: 1238-1240.

(2012) Aspirations on hold? Young lives in the West Bank and Gaza 

(2012) “West Bank and Gaza: knowledge as a pathway for dignity” Blog for The World Bank’s Voices and Views: Middle East and North Africa, November 14. URL:

(2010). “Transición religiosa” Encuesta Nacional Bicentenario Universidad Católica - Adimark 2009 Una mirada al alma de Chile 36: 39-43.

(2004) “El imperio del Opus Dei en Chile by Maria Luisa Monckeberg", Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 128  URL:

Topics interested in supervising

Cultural sociology, culture and society in Latin America, elites, religion, the sociology of reading and writing.

If you are interested in being supervised by M. Angélica Thumala Olave, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology