News Archive

Ben Schonthal granted an Early Career Award for Distinction in Research

Senior Lecturer Dr Ben Schonthal has been granted an Early Career Award for Distinction in Research from the University of Otago. The Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research were introduced in 2004 to recognise and nurture the University’s most promising early career researchers.

Appointment

Dr John Shaver has been appointed as Lecturer in Religion. Dr Shaver is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Religious Studies Programme at Victoria University of Wellington. He will take up his appointment on 17 May. We're delighted to welcome him to the Department.

Promotions

Ben Schonthal will be promoted to Senior Lecturer and Will Sweetman to Associate Professor. Both promotions take effect from 1 February 2016.

Presentations and Papers in November/December

Dr. Guthrie will be giving a paper at the NZASIA Biennial New Zealand Asian Studies Society Conference (29 November-1 December 2015) on a panel dedicated to legacy of De Jong. Her contribution is titled "De Jong’s participation in the inaugural WFB conferences during the Buddha Jayanti period." Dr. Guthrie will also be in Cambodia in early December participating in a workshop with Kate Crosby (Kings College London), Andrew Skilton (Kings College London), and Olivier de Bernon (EFEO) and his team of Khmer scholars/translators to work on mul kammatthan meditation manuscripts. The eventual aim of the workshop is to publish some three volume book but in the meantime she will enjoy collaborating with Khmer, Thai, French and British scholars in the ambience of Angkor Wat.

Dr. Farzana Haniffa to give two talks

Anthropologist from the University of Colombo, Dr. Farzana Haniffa, will give two talks at Otago on Tuesday September 29. From noon to 1:00pm in St. Davids Seminar room 4. Dr. Haniffa and Dr. Schonthal will lead an informal conversation about Sri Lanka’s current political climate, in the wake of recent parliamentary elections and in the aftermath of the civil war. The event is part of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies Seminar Series. Dr. Haniffa will be also be giving open, public lecture will be from 5:00-6:15 in QUAD 1. The title of the talk is: "Merit Economies in Neoliberal Times: Halal Trouble in Post War Sri Lanka”. This is hosted by the Religion Programme along with the Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures.

Gamelon Performance in Queenstown

On November 28, Elizabeth Guthrie will be in Queenstown with University of Otago's Puspawarna Gamelan group, performing at “Indonesia Day” an Indonesian festival sponsored by the Indonesian Embassy in NZ. The group will put on a wayang kulit (javanese shadow puppet theatre) of an episode from the Mahabharata.

Religion Lecturer wins OUSA 2015 Teaching Award

The Otago University Students' Association has named Ben Schonthal one of the university's "top ten teachers" for 2015. One letter of support included the following: "Ben is the most enthusiastic, encouraging, supportive, and interesting lecturer I have had in my 5 years at Otago University. I looked forward to every lecture and really enjoyed the material we covered. He challenges us students to do the best that we can, and supports us to make sure we achieve our best. He has always been there for any questions that we might have, and you can tell that he really cares about the material that he is teaching, and ensures that we understand. I am sad to be finishing University this year because I would love to take more of his papers."

Dr. Meilssa Crouch to give two talks

Dr. Melissa Crouch, Lecturer in Law at the University of New South Wales, will give two talks about Myanmar on Tuesday September 1. From 12:00-1:00 in the Law Faculty Staff Library, as part of the Law Faculty seminar series, Dr. Crouch will deliver the talk “Constitutional Reform in Authoritarian Regimes: Writs as Weapons in Myanmar?" At 5:00-6:30, she will deliver an open, public lecture in QUAD 1 titled "Myanmar’s Muslims and the Struggle to Define a Burmese Muslim Identity." This is hosted by the Religion Programme along with the Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures.

Dr. Tamara Loos to give two talks

Dr. Tamara Loos, Associate Professor in History at Cornell University, will give two talks. From 5:00-6:30 on Tue Aug 4 in QUAD 1, Dr. Loos will deliver an open public lecture titled "Buddhist 'Activists' and Muslim 'Terrorists': Biography and Islam in Thai History." This is hosted by the Religion Programme along with the Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures. On Wed Aug 5 in the Department of History Conference Room, Dr. Loos will give a seminar paper on her new book project, titled "Bones Around My Neck." This seminar is hosted by the Centre for the Study of Colonial Cultures.

Albert Moore Memorial Lectures

The second series of Albert Moore Memorial Lectures will be delivered by Dr Christopher Hartney of the University of Sydney, on 14, 15 and 16 July 2015. For details of the series, please see here.

Presentations and Papers Delivered

Ben Schonthal presented his work on religion and constitutional law in Sri Lanka at multiple events in Bielefeld, Germany, in July, as part of his participation in an international research group on Balancing Religious Accommodation and Human Rights in Constitutional Frameworks, supported by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Study (ZiF) at the University of Bielefeld. Will Sweetman presented a paper on Missionary Appropriations of the Veda at the Yale-Edinburgh Group on the History of the Missionary Movement and World Christianity, New Haven, 25–27 June 2015.

Papers offered in 2016

A provisional list of Religion papers to be offered in 2016 is now available here.

2014 Buddhist Studies Scholarships

The 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarships in Buddhist Studies for 2014 were presented by the Venerable Thong Srey, the Chief Abbot of the Wellington Meditation Centre, during a visit to Dunedin in May 2015.

The two scholarships (one for $2500, and one for $1500) are awarded annually to students in Buddhist Studies who gain the best marks on RELS102. The scholarships were awarded to Andrew McKean and Imogen Standring. Prizes were also awarded for outstanding performance on other papers in Buddhist Studies. The recipients were Brittany Jackson, Jaimee Thorpe and Julia Hirsch.

"Islam in Asia" Speaker Series, Semester 2, 2015

In semester 2, 2015, the Religion programme will host a series of public talks by international scholars on the theme of Islam in Asia. The series is made possible by the Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures. Look here for more information.

Dr. Asanga Tilakaratne will be Visiting Professor of Buddhism in Semester One

The Department is very excited to announce that Dr. Asanga Tilakarante will be in residence for Semester One as a Visiting Professor in Buddhist Studies. He will teach two papers, "Theravada Buddhism" and "Buddhism, State and Society" and will be available to undergraduate and postgraduate students for advice and help with Buddhist Studies.

New Papers in 2015

Paper offerings in 2015 have now been confirmed. The full list is available here. Among them are a number being offered for the first time in 2015:

  • RELS 205 / 305 World Christianity (campus and distance)
  • RELS 222 / 322 Qur'an and Hadith
  • RELS 225 / 325 Science, Religion and Knowledge
  • RELS 314 / 414 Religion and Identity

Donation of Books

Ven. Manshin presents books to Dr Elizabeth GuthrieDr Elizabeth Guthrie recently travelled to Christchurch to attend the Buddha's Birthday Festival organised by the Buddha's Light International Association and Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple South Island, New Zealand. On behalf of the Department of Theology and Religion, she accepted a donation of books from Ven. Manshin, the Abbess of Fo Guang Shan New Zealand.

Since 2011, Fo Guang Shan's Woodenfish Programme has provided support for Elizabeth and three Otago graduate students to study Buddhism in China: Tenzin Mullin, Phra Kittipanyo Kittiasak and Kez Wallis. For more about this year's Woodenfish program at Mount Wutai Shan, see http://www.woodenfish.org/china/.

Dr Kukkonen to visit New York University Abu Dhabi 2014-2015

Taneli Kukkonen will be Visiting Associate Professor at New York University's Abu Dhabi campus for NYUAD's academic year 2014-2015. During his time away, Dr Kukkonen will teach courses on Reason and Religion and Classical Arabic Philosophy and put the finishing touches to his second book, which is on the famous Islamic theologian, philosophers, and theoretician of Sufism al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111); he will also draw on the academic resources and connections of NYUAD, which is the region's first full liberal arts college and fast becoming a hub for academic collaboration across the region as well as globally.

Lecturer Nominated for OUSA Summer School Award

Dr. Ben Schonthal was nominated for an OUSA Summer School Teaching Award for the paper RELS 216/316 Zen Buddhism.

 

2013 Buddhist Studies Scholarships

Ven. Sudhammo presents a scholarship to Tessa WatsonThe 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarships in Buddhist Studies for 2013 were presented by the Most Venerable Phrapalad Sudham Tiravanich, the Chairperson and General Secretary of the Foundation, during a visit to Dunedin in April 2014.

The two scholarships (one for $2500, and one for $1500) are awarded annually to students in Buddhist Studies who gain the best marks on RELS102. The scholarships were awarded to Tessa Watson and Thaddeus Tobin. Prizes were also awarded for outstanding performance on other papers in Buddhist Studies. The recipients were Thomas Davies, Lilly Wilhelms, Andrea Hickman, Tessa Flatt and Christopher Burgess.

Postgrads present at international conferences

A number of Ph.D. candidates are presenting at international conferences in the coming months. Danilo Giambra will present a paper in June (in Japanese) titled Taniguchi Masanobu: Presenting and Representing the Religious Charismatic Leader over the Social Networks at the Centre for Information on Religion, in Tokyo, as part of their Seminar for the Study of Japanese Culture and Religion. Linda Zampol D'Ortia will be presenting a paper titled "A capa do diabo: Francisco Cabral’s policing of Jesuit identity in the Portuguese Assistancy (Japan, 1570-1580") at the 45th Annual Meeting of the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies in Modena, Italy. Nikki Aaron will be presenting her paper, "The impact of sporadic missionary groups on Christian faith-based organisations: A case study from Karnataka, India," at a conference at National University Singapore titled The Ethics of Religious Giving in Asia: Historical and Ethnographic Explorations in October.

International prize for Religion lecturer

Ben Schonthal has been awarded the 2013 Law & Society Association Dissertation Prize for outstanding work in law and society research. The Otago Bulletin has further details.

Ven. Sudhammo presents the scholarship funds to the PVC for Humanities, Professor Brian Moloughney2012 Buddhist Studies Scholarships

The 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarships in Buddhist Studies for 2012 were presented by the Most Venerable Phrapalad Sudham Tiravanich, the Chairperson and General Secretary of the Foundation, during a visit to Dunedin in May 2013.

The two scholarships (one for $2500, and one for $1500) are awarded annually to students in Buddhist Studies who gain the best marks on RELS102. The scholarships were awarded to Ray Nukada and Andrea Hickman. Prizes were also awarded for outstanding performance on other papers in Buddhist Studies. The recipients were Jordan Adams, Laura McLauchlan, Ali Idris, and Sharnita Atam.

Professor Brian Moloughney, PVC for Humanities, acknowledged on behalf of the University the Foundation's ongoing support for two staff in Buddhist Studies, Dr Chaisit Suwanvarangkul and Dr Elizabeth Guthrie.

Buddhism appointment

We are very pleased to announce that Ben Schonthal has been appointed Lecturer in Buddhism at Otago. Dr Schonthal's research examines the intersections of law, politics and religion in late-colonial and contemporary Southern Asia, with a particular focus on Sri Lanka. He will take up his appointment in February 2013.

Research on religious education in schools

Helen Bradstock's research on religious education in schools is discussed by Tapu Misa in the New Zealand Herald.

MoU on promoting Buddhist Studies at Otago

Ven. Sudhammo and Professor Moloughney with the MoUThe University of Otago and the 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation of New Zealand and Australia have extended a memorandum of understanding for the promotion of Buddhist Studies at Otago for a further five-year term. The MoU was signed by Phrapalad Sudham Tiravanich, Chairperson and General Secretary of the Foundation, and Professor Brian Moloughney, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Humanities on behalf of the University, on 26 June 2012. Professor Moloughney expressed his gratitude on behalf of the Department and the University for the Foundation's ongoing support for Buddhist Studies. Under the MoU, the Foundation will continue to support Dr Chaisit Suwanvarangkul as Lecturer in Buddhist Studies for a further five years and provide scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Buddhist Studies at Otago. The Foundation will also part-fund a further fixed-term position in Buddhist Studies.

Research on devadasis on Radio New Zealand

Nicole Aaron's research on devadasis in contemporary south India was featured in the Radio New Zealand programme 'Spiritual Outlook' for 29 July 2012. The programme can be downloaded from the Radio NZ website. The Times of India has also taken an interest in Nikki's research.

De Carle lectures online

Professor James Cox's 2012 De Carle lectures on 'The Invention of God in Indigenous Societies' are now available as audio and video podcasts from the Humanities Lectures webpage.

Open Lecture online

Professor Bernard Faure's Open Lecture "Under the Gaze of the Stars: Japanese Buddhism and Star Mandalas" is now available for download as an audio or video podcast.

Pali course

An informal course “Introductory Pali”, will begin on Tuesday 28 February, 2012. The class will meet on Tuesdays from 5.30-7pm, in a group study room in the central library. The textbooks will be A. P. Buddhadatta, The New Pali Course (Part I & II; Colombo: The Colombo Apothecarie's Co., 1949), and Steven Collins, A Pali Grammar For Students (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2006).

For further details, please contact Venerable Maithree: maithreem@yahoo.com.

Publication of Albert Moore's Autobiography

The autobiography of the late Albert Moore, who established the study of Religion at Otago ("Phenom") in 1968, has been published. The book was launched at an event on 19 October 2011 at the University Staff Club. Copies of the book may be obtained from the Department. The price is $45 and proceeds will go to the Albert Moore Memorial Lecture Fund.

2011 Buddhist Studies Scholarships

Ven. Sudhammo presents a scholarship to Jasmin DawsonThe 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarships in Buddhist Studies for 2011 have been awarded to Jasmine Dawson and Alice Garner.

The scholarships were presented by the Most Venerable Phrapalad Sudham Tiravanich, the Chairperson and General Secretary of the Foundation, during the Oceania Observance of the United Nations day of Vesak 2011. The ceremony was attended by His Excellency Mr Noppadon Theppitak (Thai Ambassador to New Zealand), Mr Viduranga Aruna Abeygoonesekera (Sri Lankan Honorary Consul), and representatives of the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions in New Zealand.

The two scholarships (one for $2500, and one for $1500) are awarded annually to students in Buddhist Studies who gain the best marks on RELS102. Prizes were also awarded for outstanding performance on other papers in Buddhist Studies. The recipients were Christopher Arnison, Weerachai Lueritthikul and Naomi Woods.

Pali course

An informal course in Pali, the language of the Theravadin Buddhist canon, will begin on Tuesday 12 July. The class will meet on Tuesdays from 3-5pm, in a group study room in the central library. The textbooks will be A. P. Buddhadatta, The New Pali Course (Part I; Colombo, The Colombo Apothecarie's Co., 1949), and Steven Collins, Pali Grammar For Students (Silkworm Books Press, 2006).

For further details, please contact Phra Weerachai: luewe161@student.otago.ac.nz - Tel. 02 1059 4965.

Islamic Studies appointment

We are very pleased to announce that Taneli Kukkonen has been appointed Senior Lecturer in Islamic Studies at Otago. Dr Kukkonen's primary research interests are in the history of Islamic theology, philosophy, and mysticism. He will take up his appointment in January 2012.

New book: Japanese Religions on the Internet

Japanese Religions on the Internet: Innovation, Representation, and Authority edited by Erica Baffelli together with Ian Reader and Birgit Staemmler was published at the end of 2010. The book draws attention to how religion is being presented, represented and discussed on the Japanese Internet. It contributes to wider discussions about religion and the Internet by providing an important example - based on one of the Internet's most prominent languages - of how new media technologies are being used and are impacting on religion in the East-Asian context, while also developing further our understandings of religion in a technologically advanced country.

De Carle Lectures

Joy Hendry, Professor of Social Anthropology and Director of the Europe Japan Research Centre at Oxford Brookes University, has been appointed to a De Carle Distinguished Lectureship and will be hosted by the Department in semester 2, 2011.

James Cox, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, has been appointed to a De Carle Distinguished Lectureship and will be hosted by the Department in semester 1, 2012.

Visit of the Ven. Tenzin Lhundrup, Dhargyey Rinpoche

Visit of the Ven. Tenzin Lhundrup, Dhargyey RinpocheOn the 27th of January 2011, the Department was visited by the Ven. Tenzin Lhundrup, Dhargyey Rinpoche together with other teachers from the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre in Dunedin. The centre was founded by the Ven. Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey in 1985. Following his death in 1995, his remains were interred in a stupa on the Otago peninsula (a picture of which appears on the home page of the Department website. In 1998, Tenzin Lhundrup was identified by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Rinpoche Geshe Dhargyey. He was accompanied on his visit by the Ven Geshe Jampa Tenzin, the newly arrived resident Lama at Dhargyey Buddhist Centre Dunedin and a distinguished graduate of Sera Je Monastery, and by the Ven. Geshe Nyima Dorjee (resident Lama at Dhargyey Buddhist Centre in Christchurch) and the Ven. Geshe Lobsang Geleg (teacher of Ven Dhargyey Rinpoche), both of whom are also graduates of Sera Je, and by Ven Jampa Drolma, an ordained nun who lives at the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre. Losang Dawa, lecturer at University of Otago Language Centre, translated our discussions. After a tour of the University and Department, the visitors were shown some items from the Library's collections by the Special Collections Librarian, Dr Donald Kerr.

Pali course

An informal course in Pali, the language of the Theravadin Buddhist canon, will begin on Tuesday 16 November. The class will meet twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-5pm, in the group study room in the central library. The textbook will be A. P. Buddhadatta, The New Pali Course, which is available for purchase online. For further details, please contact Weerachai Lueritthikul.

Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures

The Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures, a joint project of the University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington, has established a website describing the work of the Centre.

2010 Buddhist Studies Scholarships

Ven. Sudhammo presents a scholarship to Chris ArnisonThe 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarships in Buddhist Studies for 2010 have been awarded to Christopher Arnison and Catherine Deans.

The scholarships were presented by the Most Venerable Phrapalad Sudham Tiravanich, the Chairperson and General Secretary of the Foundation, at a recent award ceremony.

The two scholarships (one for $2500, and one for $1500) are to be awarded annually to students in Buddhist Studies who gain the best marks on RELS102.

Buddhist Tipitaka presented to Otago University

To give the teachings of the Buddha is the most precious gift a Buddhist can offer. For that reason, staff at the University of Otago felt fortunate and thrilled to receive a copy of the Tipitaka (Buddhist scriptures) from the 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation of New Zealand and Australia.
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2009 Buddhist Studies ScholarshipsVen. Sudhammo presents a scholarship to Sarah Baillie

The 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarships in Buddhist Studies for 2009 have been awarded to Sarah Baillie and In-Sook Scorgie

The scholarships were presented by the Most Venerable Phrapalad Sudham Tiravanich, the Chairperson and General Secretary of the Foundation, at a recent award ceremony.

The two scholarships (one for $2500, and one for $1500) are to be awarded annually to students in Buddhist Studies who gain the best marks on RELS102.

Research briefing

Dr Will Sweetman's research is featured in the latest issue of the Otago Magazine. The briefing highlights research which resulted in the recovery of a palm-leaf manuscript, significant for the history of European scholarly engagement with Hinduism. The text, a Tamil cosmography, provided the structure for one of the most important early European works on Hinduism. The article appears also in He Kitenga, the University's annual report on research highlights.

Promotion

The Department congratulates Dr Greg Dawes on being promoted to Associate Professor. The promotion took effect from 1 February 2009.

New paper on Women in Islam

An interview in the Otago Daily Times with Dr Toni Tidswell who will be teaching a new paper on Women in Islam in 2009.

Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Otago and the Religious Studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington have been awarded $365,000 as establishment funding for a Centre for the Study of Islam and Muslim Cultures. The grant was made by the Tertiary Education Commission through its fund for Encouraging and Supporting Innovation.

Buddhist Studies Scholarships

Ven. SudhammoTwo scholarships in Buddhist Studies, supported by the 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation of Australia and New Zealand were recently awarded. Michael Dent and Lauren McEwan-Nugent received their awards from the Most Venerable Phrapalad Sudham Tiravanich, the Chairperson and General Secretary of the Foundation.

The two scholarships (one for $2500, and one for $1500) are to be awarded annually to students in Buddhist Studies who gain the best marks on RELS102.

'Exceptional' PhD

Dr Greg Dawes, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies, who already has a PhD in Biblical Studies, has recently completed a second PhD in Philosophy: "Theism and Explanation: a Defence of Scientific Naturalism". It was placed on the Humanities Division List of Exceptional PhD Theses, consisting of theses 'exceptional in every respect - research content, originality, quality of expression, and accuracy of presentation' and thus among the top 10% of theses examined. All three examiners recommended it for publication as having the makings of an important book.

PBRF Results

The results in the national 2006 Performance-Based Research Fund Evaluation Exercise have recently been announced. The subject score for the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Otago was 6.8 and the Departmental score was 6.6. This means the Department is the highest rated in New Zealand for research in its area.

The Department has also achieved the second highest Departmental score in the University of Otago (Philosophy at Otago was awarded the highest) and the third equal highest score of any Department at any University in New Zealand (Philosophy at Otago was first, Chemical and Materials Engineering at Auckland second). We also considerably improved our score - from 4.1 in 2003 to 6.6 in 2006.

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme