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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


M. Angelica Thumala Olave

M. Angelica Thumala Olave
Dr M. Angelica Thumala Olave
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, Identity formation, Elites, Culture and society in Latin America, Sociology of reading and books

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Thursdays 1-3 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


Fundamentals 1 (Convenor)

Sociology 1A and 1B (Co-convenor) 

Designing and Doing Social Research (Convenor)

Research Design (Lecturer)

Religion and Society (Lecturer)

Researching Global Social Change (MSc Sociology & Global Change) (Lecturer)

Research interests

My research interests lie broadly within cultural sociology. My overarching concern is with processes of meaning making in religious and secular contexts; how individuals use the cultural resources at their disposal for self-understanding, reflexivity and self-justification. My aim is to provide theoretically informed, empirical support for an interpretation of culture as autonomous from power and self-interest. I am also interested in the impact of commitment to norms and beliefs, and the role of emotions in signalling what matters to people. I have explored these themes in three main strands of ethnographic and mixed-methods work on religion, consumption and gender norms. I have studied i) the religious identity and ethos of Chile’s business elite, in particular their response to ethical challenges and increases in pluralism; ii) the normative constraints to the consumption of security in England; what consumption decisions signal about individuals’ and organizations’ hierarchies of value; and iii) how gender norms shape and are affected by strategic decisions within households as well as the wider set of opportunities available for agents.

I am currently working on two research projects:

1. A cultural sociology of reading. 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, coping and pleasure as well as critical capacity and utopian thought. 

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


(forthcoming) "Civil indignation in Chile. Collusion scandals in the retail industry" in Civil Sphere in Latin America Ed. Jeffrey Alexander and Carlo Tognato. Cambridge University Press.


(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.



(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

(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.

Reviews and other publications

(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”, Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 128  URL: