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The journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)

Edited by the Executive Committee of BASR

ISSN 0967-8948

DISKUS Volume 7 (Autumn 2006)

Index of Articles


Editorial Comment

This is the first issue of DISKUS to appear as the journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions. As such, it represents a gradual evolution in published output by the BASR, which began producing a Bulletin in 1972 and then issued its Annual Lectures as a series of Occasional Papers starting in 1991. Selected articles from the Occasional Papers series were published to mark the 50th Anniversary of the BASR in 2004 in a book entitled Religion: Empirical Studies, edited by Steven Sutcliffe (Ashgate, 2004). In her Foreword to the book, Peggy Morgan, who served as Honorary President of the BASR from 2000 to 2003, observed that the volume confirms ‘the intellectual vitality and diversity of debate and educational relevance of its subject matter’. In one sense, therefore, by assuming editorial responsibility for DISKUS, the BASR is continuing a tradition begun over thirty years ago when it began to publish a Bulletin, which in recent years has provided much more than news concerning activities of the Association by including a series of scholarly articles and debates within the field of Religious Studies, special features and book reviews.

Yet, this issue of DISKUS also marks a turning point for the British Association for the Study of Religions, since it is taking responsibility for an electronic journal with an impressive history. DISKUS began its life in 1993 under the direction of Brian Bocking and Gavin Flood, when the first issue was produced on a computer disk only. They noted then that the name of the journal ‘reflects its purpose of stimulating on-DISK DISCUSsion’ focusing on matters related to contemporary religions. The first issues were placed on disks which could be posted, but subsequently DISKUS became incorporated into a web-based consortium of journals called the Internet Journal of Religion, hosted at the University of Marburg under the direction of Michael Pye. Since the journal in recent years has not been active, the BASR Executive was asked to consider reviving it, in the first instance, by transforming the Occasional Papers Series into a journal format, with an intention of restoring DISKUS into an important review of issues relevant to the academic study of religions.

This first issue under the auspices of the BASR features three papers, two of which were presented at the BASR Day Conference held in London in September 2005. The first by Frank Whaling, who has a long relationship with the BASR and was Professor of Religious Studies in the University of Edinburgh until his retirement in 1999, reviews the history of our field of study. This is then followed by a paper presented by Seth Kunin of the University of Durham, which poses issues for the academic study of religions emerging from perspectives within the anthropology of religion. The third paper, by Brian Bocking of the School of Oriental and African Studies, examines the issue of the elemental role of experience in determining religious beliefs. These three excellent papers turn the first issue of the BASR version of DISKUS into one with a strongly methodological focus, with one article incorporating a historical perspective, another discussing appropriate ways to interpret religious behaviour and practices in social contexts and the third focusing on the relationship between individual and communal influences on religious experience. This is a fitting new beginning for DISKUS, since the place of the study of religions as a field of study in its own right forms a continuing point of contention amongst scholars. The debate over the so-called sui generis content of religion needs to be placed into a clear historical context and at the same time challenged by disciplinary perspectives originating from the social sciences. In this sense, these initial articles may set the stage for further DISCUSsion of the legitimate place and appropriate role of Religious Studies in the academy.

The Editorial Board of DISKUS will fall to the Executive Committee of the BASR. This entails a firm commitment not only by the present Executive, but my those who will be elected as Officers in the future. The continuity of the project, however, is assured in a way similar to the manner the BASR Bulletin has been maintained over the past several years, by co-opting an editor onto the Executive Committee. In this case, Mathew Guest of the University of Durham has accepted the role of co-ordinator of DISKUS and thus for representing its interests on the Executive Committee. He has assumed this position as a natural follow-up from his former responsibility as Occasional Papers Editor. Nonetheless, the other members of the Executive will contribute significantly to developing policy for DISKUS and for maintaining its continued viability. For this reason, we are beginning in a small way by producing an annual issue, comprised in the first instance of Annual Lectures given at the most recent BASR Conference, a pattern that will be followed for the foreseeable future, although other papers that are deemed particularly significant by Executive Committee for the theme of a particular year’s conference may be invited for submission, such as the paper of Brian Bocking. This follows the pattern set by the Occasional Papers series, and, at least for the immediate period, identifies DISKUS as a replacement for the Occasional Papers.

Words of gratitude need to be extended to those who have made this possible, particularly Brian Bocking and Gavin Flood, who originated the journal, and to Michael Pye, who incorporated it into an internet format. Also, thanks should be extended to members of the present Executive Committee, who considered seriously the practicalities of taking on this responsibility, particularly Graham Harvey, the BASR Secretary, Helen Waterhouse, the Honorary Treasurer, George Chryssides, the BASR Bulletin Editor and Marion Bowman, the Conference Organiser and currently the President-elect. Of course, deep gratitude goes to Mathew Guest for his willingness to take the lead in this project. Finally, we want to extend strong appreciation to the Open University, which hosts the website for the BASR, and which will care for the journal in its new setting.

James Cox
Honorary President of the British Association for the Study of Religions
August 2006

  1. Frank WHALING
    A Brief History of the Study of Religion
    Abstract click throughArticle

  2. Seth KUNIN
    The Dialectical Relationship Between Theory and Ethnography
    Abstract click through to articleArticle

  3. Brian BOCKING
    Mysticism: No Experience Necessary?
    -Abstract Article
























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