Theology, Religious and Islamic Studies

Lampeter Bible

Engaged research with a historic scope from Medieval Wales to the World Wide Web


‌Theology & Religious Studies has been a core activity of UWTSD from its inception, and the School maintains a national and international profile. Exploring the complex role and histories of religion and its texts in a global context, our research is organised around the three main strands of Biblical Studies, Historical and Theological Studies (including Welsh religious history) and Religious and Islamic Studies.

The School is also involved in the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre. Under its new director, Prof Bettina Schmidt, the centre has hosted a one-day conference in 2014 and is currently setting up a new peer-reviewed, free access online journal of the study of religious experience. 

 

Work in this area relates to the impact that the Bible and its interpretation has had on community and culture; the ways in which study of the Bible lends itself to dialogue between the three Abrahamic faiths and the place and role of the Bible in the school curriculum. Researchers in the cluster have a range of interactions with user groups who are interested in issues of interpretation: in areas of teaching and cultural engagement, in interreligious dialogue especially between Christians and Muslims, and in interactions with church-based groups.

Work in this area relates specifically to historical questions  with special references to Welsh religious history. The research centres on issues of understanding the historical contexts in which different denominations have been formed and their ongoing relevance for a range of different cultural sectors. The University also has a strong tradition of research in medieval monasticism and the Celtic saints.

Research in this area is centred on Islamic scholarship,  Hadith Studies and Theology and Islamic Law, in addition to a strong focus on the interaction of the Muslim faith, politics and the internet.  In a wider context the University has a strong interest in the archaeology of the Arab world and important links with cultural organisations in the Quatar.

Work on this area examines traditions originating in Indian and African contexts, and their place in modern society. One of the important areas of focus in this research is the movement of traditions across socio-cultural and national boundaries and their development in new host societies and cultures. Another area of focus has to do with the interface between diasporic religions, health and healing in contemporary societies. The research on Afro-Carribbean and Afro-Brazilian traditions explores experiences of spirit possession, ecstasy  and trance among diasporic communities of African origin. The research on Indian traditions includes work on transnational guru movements; on the Hindu diaspora in the UK, and on traditions like Ayurveda and Yoga which have an important place today in the Western milieu of holistic health.

Initiatives already begun in this area (research seminars on Muslim-Christian dialogue in 2011; a series of seminars in Interfaith Week in 2012 and accompanying exhibition of material in the Roderic Bowen Library) will be expanded to include a range of different faith communities. The school will provide an academic and research dimension to the work of Interfaith Wales, the forum aimed at building a culture of mutual understanding and respect between the different faith communities living in Wales, and with the wider secular society (http://www.cytun.org.uk/interfaithwales/interfaith_eng_about.html). TRSIS has arranged to work with Interfaith Wales to ensure the impact value of its research in a rapidly developing multicultural Wales. Cooperation will be sought with European partners in order to secure external funding

In the light of radical demographic and cultural shifts and in response to the Welsh Government’s policy initiative on inter-faith activity (see ‘Inter-Faith Activity and Grassroots Faith Communities in Wales’ www.gov.wales/statistics-and-research/assessment-inter-faith-activity-practiced-grassroots-faith-communities/?lang=en, this project aims to map, analyse and evaluate emerging patterns of belief within Wales, the UK and beyond. It continues initiatives from recent years (e.g., the establishment of a network of European scholars working on Afro-American religions in Europe, research in Skanda Vale and about Muslims in the UK, and also the presence of minority religions in Wales). The project will expand a new research initiative to look further at the growing number of people declaring in the national census to have no religion (initial papers have been already presented at two conferences in 2013). The outputs of this project include an online database (open access) for scholars and stakeholders working on Wales that will be launched at a conference at UWTSD in 2014.

This project, which reflects bilingual expertise within the school, seeks to celebrate the distinctive legacy of theology and biblical scholarship within Wales and will make a valuable contribution to Theology and Biblical Studies internationally. Initial work has already been done on the Welsh-born NT scholar C. H. Dodd (T. Thatcher and C. H. Williams, Engaging with C.H. Dodd on the Gospel of John (CUP, 2013)), on the Welsh contribution to the reception of the theology of Karl Barth (D. D. Morgan, Barth Reception in Britain (T & T Clark, 2010) and on Protestant Nonconformity (R. Pope, The T & T Clark Companion to Nonconformity (T & T Clark, 2013)), while the successful AHRC project ‘Imaging the Bible in Wales’ has shown the potential for further research in the link between theology, Bible and visual culture (M. O’ Kane, Biblical Art from Wales (Sheffield, 2010)). One of the major outputs of this project will be a conference on the contribution of another Welsh-born (and Welsh-speaking) scholar, W. D. Davies, to New Testament and Jewish studies, along with a substantial conference volume.

The Religious Experience Research Centre and its director, Prof Bettina Schmidt, are engaged in the academic study of contemporary forms of spiritual and religious experience across the world. The Centre organises conferences, research seminars and meetings and publishes its findings in books, articles and occasional papers (recently made available online). 
 
In 2014 we held a one-day conference about the study of religious experience which will be published in a book, including further chapters in 2015. The next one-day conference will be held in 2015. A new initiative is the development of a new, peer-reviewed and free accessible online Journal of the Study of Religions Experience, the first one in this area worldwide (the first issue will be out in 2015). The centre also supports the MRes in Religious Experience which the School offers since 2014. 
 
The centre has supported in the past a range of projects, such as a project about exploring religious experience in China led by Professors Xinzhong Yao and Paul Badham and funded by the Templeton Foundation. 
 
New research initiatives include a project on Mediumnistic Approach to Wellbeing (Sensing is believing: Phenomenology, Corporeality and Intersubjectivity), led by Professors Bettina Schmidt and Karen Ingham (to be submitted soon); a post-doc project about Apprenticeship and complementary healing:  The therapeutic uses of mediumistic development in the Brazilian Vale do Amanhecer led by Dr Emily Pierini (funding decision pending) and a project about Near-Death Experience, Shamanism, and Afterlife Beliefs in Indigenous Religions led by Dr Gregory Shushan (funding decision pending).