"History can be of tremendous value for a society that is looking for roots... and can sometimes be a bit uncritical in its search for roots. People want an identity and may be clutching at something that can be a bit confrontational, for example, Muslims looking for an identity rooted in current conflicts in the Middle East, rather than reflecting on what is quite a long-standing presence in British society and culture."

Listen Now

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

About this episode

Welcome back! Our inaugural podcast of the new semester brings you two short interviews on the subject of historical approaches to the study of religion, recorded by David Robertson at the Open University’s Contemporary Religion in Historical Context conference in Milton Keynes, July 2013.

First up is John Wolffe, who gives us an overview of the approach, its strengths and weaknesses, the impact that the internet has had on historical research and the shift towards “new history” which focusses on the marginalised over the powerful. Professor Wolffe also describes how one of his recent projects was planned and executed,which should prove valuable to those of us planning historical research. He also extols the role of historical research in uncovering “hidden histories” which can undermine constructed and confrontational narratives of historical identity.

In the second half, Professor Ronald Hutton of the University of Bristol gives a more in-depth case-study, talking about his book on the emergence of Wicca, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (OUP, 1999), and how it was received by the academy and by the pagan community. Of particular interest here for the interviewer was the fact that, although sections of the book are often given to undergraduate students, they somehow seem to prefer Gerald Gardner’s own fantastical account of initiation into a pre-Christian Moon-goddess cult over Hutton’s more down-to-earth – yet no less fascinating – account.

Thanks to the Open University for supporting these and other recordings.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us, or use our Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com links to support us when buying your important books etc.

 Fund the RSP while you shop! Use an Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, or Amazon.com affiliate link whenever you make a purchase. There’s no additional cost to you, but every bit helps us stay on the air! 

We need your support!

Want to support us directly? Become a monthly Patron or consider giving us a one-time donation through PayPal

Related Resources

Outside the Panels: Comics and Context

Response

Comic books frequently include alternative or heterodox religious ideas, something underscored by the fact that two of the most acclaimed writers working today (Alan Moore and Grant Morrison) are practising magicians, and their work frequently contains references to their practises. At several points during his most recent interview with the Religious Studies Project, A. David Lewis alludes to the prominence of religious themes and images in comic books.
Of Demon Kings and Protestant Yakṣas

Response

The disappointment of Western pacifists here is not unlike the reaction of early Orientalists who, disappointed by the ritualism and deity-worship they found in living Buddhist cultures, described a degenerate Buddhism. Let me begin by saying that this is not a critique, but an effort to contribute to a conversation about issues that have affected me personally as a scholar. In particular,...
The Religious and Political Landscape in Peru: A Historic and Cautionary Tale

Response

I can’t help but see the parallels between the Peruvian religious and political history which Fonseca outlines in his interview and the events currently taking place in the United States where religion and politics are more intricately entwined than ever before by a minority Far-Right Conservative Christian movement and its dominant media presence. This intriguing parallel makes Fonseca’s interview timely and important as history repeats itself.

Responses to this episode

Historical Approaches to Studying Religion

Tim Hutchings: "My own field of research is digital religion, an area with a particularly troubled relationship to history. Scholars and commentators interested in digital culture and its significance for religion have struggled to distinguish what is truly new from what has come before, and continue to search for helpful ways to talk about change." As the RSP continues to grow, we're going to be returning more frequently to topics and themes which have already been touched upon in previous podcasts and features.

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Founding American Religion, the Journal

Podcast

Find out about the founding of the new journal American Religion with editors Sarah Imhoff and Cooper Harris
Myth, Solidarity, and Post-Liberalism

Podcast

With the rise of reactionary politics across the globe, it is arguably increasingly important for the academic community to give consideration to the prospects of developing and strengthening solidarity across apparent religious, political and economic differences. In this podcast, Chris speaks to Dr Timothy Stacey (University of Ottawa) about his forthcoming book, Myth and Solidarity in the Modern World:
The Fate of Earthly Things

Podcast

In this interview, Molly Bassett begins by introducing us to the world of Middle America, the sources scholars use today to study this period and its cultures, and then describes the benefits and challenges of teaching with Meso-American materials. Her students learn not only to challenge the categories scholars use to describe religious ideas like "god," ...
Religion and Cultural Production

Podcast

"It is a truth generally acknowledged that religions have been the earliest and perhaps the chief progenitors of cultural products in human societies..." Clearly there is no shortage of data for scholars wishing to delve into this broad topic. But what do we actually mean by ‘cultural product’? How can we claim that ‘religion’ is producing these things in any meaningful way?
Ancient Christian Origins: A Heterogeneous History

Podcast

In this week’s episode, the RSP’s Sidney Castillo talks with Professor William Arnal about ancient Christian origins and the development of Christianity through New Testament sources such as the Gospel of Thomas and Q.
Comics and the Superhero Afterlife

Podcast

In this wide-ranging interview with A. David Lewis, comic books are presented as an irreplaceable cultural medium for engaging with issues of mortality, identity, subjectivity, and cosmology. With an overwhelming slate of comic book driven television series (Walking Dead, Gotham, ...

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).