Religious Studies Research
On this page:
- Recent Developments in Religious Studies Research
- Religious Studies Research Publications
- Religious Studies Postgraduate Student Research
- Religious Studies Staff and Their Research Specialties
- St John's Visiting Scholar in Religion
- Peace Conference 2015
- Conference: Sharia in the Asia-Pacific: Islam, Law and Politics 2015
- Conference: New Trajectories in the Study of Development 2016
- Conference: Woven Together? 2016
- Trinity Newman Library
Recent Developments in Religious Studies Research
Our Religious Studies staff are dynamic researchers with world-class reputations, and are active in a range of projects supported by major international funding.
Joseph Bulbulia's latest published research in national and international press
Joseph Bulbulia and researchers from the University of Auckland's School of Psychology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and Victoria University, wanted to test the link between how unequal or hierarchical a culture was and human sacrifice.
Two Exciting New Projects: Shariah-compliant speed dating in Malaysia and Islamic (Inter)Faces of the Internet: Emerging Socialities and Forms of Piety in Indonesia
Eva Nisa is currently working on two research projects: First is a project which commenced in November, 2014 when Eva was completing her second post-doctoral fellow at the University of Amsterdam. In this project, Eva focuses on Shariah-compliant speed dating in Malaysia, delving into the question of to what extent this form of dating is acceptable or controversial, and exploring which parties either propagate the issue or consider it controversial. Eva’s second project is funded by the Austrian Science Fund and is titled “Islamic (Inter)Faces of the Internet: Emerging Socialities and Forms of Piety in Indonesia”. This research project is being conducted in collaboration with two scholars from Austria and focuses on contemporary religiosities and the use of the internet, particularly social media. The project analyses the penetration of the internet and how this has led to the fragmentation of the traditional authority of ulama (Muslim scholars). The project also examines how internet applications have become the new platform for Indonesian Muslim youth to engage in demonstrating their politics of identity as Muslims.
Year in Germany on Prestigious Humboldt Fellowship
In 2015, Michael Radich spend the year at the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg in Germany. He was supported by a prestitious Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. This award is an honour relatively rarely achieved by Australian or New Zealand researchers. During his time in Germany, Michael was hosted by hosted by Professor Michael Zimmermann, an authority on Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Michael used the time to complete research on Paramārtha's coctrine of "pure consciousness" a key concept in the history of Buddhist doctrine in China; and to kick-start a major new project to reassess the authorship and dating of classical Chinese Buddhist texts, using new computer-assisted methods he has developed in collaboration with his colleague, Wellington programmer and Digital Humanities research Jamie Norrish. During the same time in Europe, Michael also gave lectures at the Universities of Oxford, Vienna, Kyoto, Chicago, and in Hamburg itself, and participated in research workshops in Taiwan, Kyoto and Hamburg.
New Zealand Attitude and Values Study (NZAVS) longitudinal study
The New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) is a 20-year longitudinal national probability study of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes. The NZAVS is led by Dr Chris Sibley, and is unique to New Zealand. Associate Professor Joseph Bulbulia has been awarded NZD $769,000 in a highly competitive Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Grant to enrich the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) coverage of religion and spirituality at the level of communities across New Zealand. Associate Professor Joseph Bulbulia (Principal Investigator), Dr Geoff Troughton (Assistant Investigator), and Associate Professor Chris G. Sibley (School of Psychology, University of Auckland) have also been awarded a prestigious Templeton World Charity Foundation Grant (NZD $614,816). You can read more about both grants and the associated studies here.
Marsden Grant for Study on Missionaries and Peace in 19th C New Zealand
Geoff Troughton has won a 3-year Marsden grant to study the role of peace and peacemaking in early nineteenth-century missions to New Zealand. The first Protestant missionaries to New Zealand often emphasised the peaceable character of Christianity, and promoted peacemaking practices. There is evidence that such emphases were particularly strongly promoted in New Zealand, and parts of the Pacific. However, this peace dimension has often been neglected in analyses of the missions. Dr Troughton's study aims to undertake a close examination of missionary peace ideologies, and assess the significance of this emphasis for early New Zealand history and for the wider missionary project.
Marsden Grant for Transforming Hinduism
Religious Studies Research Publications
A Distant Mirror: Articulating Indic Ideas in Sixth and Seventh Century Chinese Buddhism edited by Lin Chen-kuo and Michael Radich
In this book, an international team of fourteen scholars investigates the Chinese reception of Indian Buddhist ideas, especially in the sixth and seventh centuries. Topics include Buddhist logic and epistemology (pramāṇa, yinming); commentaries on Indian Buddhist texts; Chinese readings of systems as diverse as Madhyamaka, Yogācāra and tathāgatagarbha; the working out of Indian concepts and problematics in new Chinese works; and previously under-studied Chinese evidence for developments in India. The authors aim to consider the ways that these Chinese materials might furnish evidence of broader Buddhist trends, thereby problematizing a prevalent notion of “sinification”, which has led scholars to consider such materials predominantly in terms of trends ostensibly distinctive to China. The volume also tries to go beyond seeing sixth- and seventh-century China primarily as the age of the formation and establishment of the Chinese Buddhist “schools”. The authors attempt to view the ideas under study on their own terms, as valid Buddhist ideas engendered in a rich, “liminal” space of interchange between two large traditions.
The full text of the whole book, or individual chapters, can be downloaded free of charge from the publisher, Hamburg University Press
Famously, tathāgatagarbha doctrine holds that every sentient being has within the body a womb for Buddhas, or an embryonic Buddha – the potential for full buddhahood. Previous scholars have seen this doctrine as originating in the Tathāgatagarbha-sūtra. In this book, Michael Radich argues that rather, the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra is most likely our earliest extant tathāgatagarbha text. Radich then argues that tathāgatagarbha ideas originated as part of a wider pattern of docetic Buddhology – ideas holding that Buddhas are not really as they appear. Buddhist docetic texts are clearly troubled by the notion that Buddhas could have flesh-and-blood human mothers. The Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra is one such text, and tathāgatagarbha functions as a better substitute for imperfect human maternity: rather than a putrid, painful human womb, buddhahood springs from a “womb” inherent in every sentient being, which promises final liberation from flesh altogether.
This book should interest readers concerned with the history of Buddhist ideas, gender in Buddhism, the early Mahāyāna, the cult of the Buddha’s relics, and relations between Buddhist ideas and practice.
The full text of this book can be downloaded free of charge from the publisher, Hamburg University Press
Religious Studies Postgraduate Student Research
Religious Studies has a thriving programme of postgraduate study, and PhD studies are a particular strength. Our students pursue a wide range of research projects. Read more about our students and their fascinating work here.
Religious Studies Staff and Their Research Specialties
Full information about past and current research by our staff is listed on individual staff pages in the School's staff directory.
Professor Paul Morris
Contemporary world religions, world's religions after 9/11, Judaism, including the Holocaust, diaspora and the state of Israel, Hebrew language, the relationship between religion and dying/death, religion and personal and cultural identity, theories and methods in the study of religion
Dr Joseph Bulbulia
Evolutionary psychology of religion, philosophy of religion, religion and the emotions and ritual theory
Dr Michael Radich
Medieval Chinese Buddhism; the early Mahayana; Buddhist doctrinal history; religion and the body
Dr Rick Weiss
Tamil Hinduism, religion and colonialism, healing systems, South Asian religion, 19th century Tamil literature
Dr Geoffrey Troughton religion in New Zealand society and history, contemporary religious change, missionary Christianity, religion and peacemaking, religion and welfare, history of Christianity
Dr John Shaver
Religious change in the Pacific and the role of religion in human life history strategies.
St. John's Visiting Scholar in Religion
The St John’s Visiting Scholar programme is a partnership between St John’s in the City Presbyterian Church and Victoria University. The aim of the programme is to bring distinguished scholars of religion to New Zealand, to share their scholarship with the local academy in conversation with the broader public. Read more about past and upcoming visitors on the programme here.
Peace Conference 2015
From 18-20 November 2015, Victoria University of Wellington hosted a conference for critical reflection on Christian contributions to peace and peacemaking in New Zealand. The conference provided an opportunity to evaluate Christian contributions historically, and to think theologically about the relationship of peace to Christianity; and aimed to stimulate thinking about the character and significance of peace in the life and vision of New Zealand churches. Read more about the conference here.
Conference: Sharia in the Asia-Pacific: Islam, Law and Politics, 2015
In August this year the Religious Studies Programme hosted a symposium entitled: “Sharia in the Asia-Pacific: Islam, Law and Politics”. Scholars from Malaysia, the United States, Brunei Darussalam, Australia and New Zealand engaged with the concept of Sharia in its many dimensions, including the philosophical, legal, and political. Read more about the conference here.
Conference: New Trajectories in the Study of Development 2016
"New Trajectories in the Study of Development", hosted by Religious Studies, Development Studies and Cultural Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington, will be held on 24 May 2016. Read more
Conference: Woven Together? 2016
With assistance from UNESCO and Victoria University of Wellington, a conference entitled "Woven Together? Christianity and Development between New Zealand and the Pacific" will be held at VUW from 9-10 June 2016. This conference seeks to examine Christianity as a development actor by investigating the roles that Christianity has played in influencing development and humanitarian practices, ideologies, rituals, networks and imaginations in the Pacific. The conference will also probe the flip-side of this relationship; namely, the ways in which development and humanitarianism have influenced and reshaped Pacifica Christianities. Read more about the conference here.
Trinity Newman Library Collection
The Trinity Newman library is a small, dedicated collection of books and reference works in the fields of Christian theology, history and ethics, and in Christian studies generally. Read more about the library here.