PhD awarded

Keziah Wallis's PhD has been approved. Her examiners described the thesis as "beautifully lucid, insightful, comprehensive and compelling," commented on the "maturity and thoroughness" of Keziah's engagement with the literature from Anthropology, Religious Studies and Area Studies and agreed that the these was among the best that they had examined. Many congratulations, Keziah!

Advanced Pali Course

Phra Akbordin Rattana, a PhD candidate, attended an advanced course on the Pali language at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. The course was taught by Professor Richard Gombrich.

Phra Akbordin also presented funds for the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies from the Dhammachai Internation Research Institute.


John Shaver will be promoted to Senior Lecturer from 1 February 2019. Congratulations, John! John will also take over as Head of the Religion Programme from February.

Teaching Award

Ben Schonthal has been awarded a Division of Humanities Teaching Excellence Award. Congratulations, Ben!

Summer papers

Enrolment for the Otago Summer School opens soon. There will be two Religion papers offered in Summer School 2019. Click on the links below for more information about the papers.

Summer School 2019
New Religious Movements
Religion, Law and Politics

You can also now enrol for the Pre-Christmas Summer School, taught in the period between the end of the second semester exam period and the Christmas break. This year we will again offer RELS 220/320 Representing Islam, which was our most popular paper last year. To add this paper, you need to complete a change of course form available from AskOtago.

Buddhist Studies Scholarships

The 60th Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarships in Buddhist Studies for 2017 were presented by Phramaha Somkit Howhan, Abbot of the Dunedin Meditation Centre. 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 Richell Hancock and Woramat Malasart. Prizes were also awarded for outstanding performance on other papers in Buddhist Studies. The recipients were Sandra Mathew, Asia Brownlie, Brendon Hooper, William Sharp and Abigail Petrie.

National Library of Australia Fellowship

Dr Linda Zampol D'Ortia, who received her PhD this year, has been awarded a fellowship at the National Library of Australia. Linda will make use of the library's holdings, particularly the Braga collection of materials on the Portuguese in East Asia to examine perceptions of missionary failure in the early modern Jesuit enterprise in Japan (1549-1639). Linda will spend three months in Canberra, in the distinguished company of the other 2018 fellows.

2018 papers and new MA by coursework

Our undergraduate papers for 2018 are now confirmed. The full list is available here. We are also pleased to announce that from 2018 we are introducing a new pathway within the Master of Arts, a 180-point coursework option. Further details about the MA and the courses on offer in 2018 are on our postgraduate page.

Dr Sara RahmaniUnderstanding Unbelief

Dr Sara Rahmani, has been awarded a £59,535 research grant by the University of Kent's Understanding Unbelief project to undertake postdoctoral research at Coventry University, UK.

Her proposed research will carry out a cross-cultural investigation of the nature of unbelief among practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation to identify whether it functions as an equivalent of religion for unbelievers.

Sara's postdoctoral research builds on her recently completed PhD thesis, "Drifting Through Samsara: Tacit conversion and disengagement in Goenka’s Vipassana movement in New Zealand," which is included on the Division of Humanities' list of exceptional theses.

Goenka's Vipassana movement is famous for its consistent refusal to identify its practice as religious, even though the teachings and practices are unequivocally derived from Buddhism. Sara’s PhD explores how increased socialisation into this movement and adoption of its language paradoxically creates non-religious identities. Her ethnographic research further examined the influence of biographical, institutional, and sociocultural structures that support the Vipassana practitioners’ non-religious positions.

Photo by Janko Ferlic on UnsplashSummer School Papers

We will again be offering a paper in the pre-Christmas Summer School this year, RELS 220/320 Representing Islam.

The paper focuses on the ways in which Islam has been represented in the West, locating them within a longer historical tradition with the goal of understanding the implications of these discourses for contemporary relationships between Muslims and others. If you're keen to learn more about the issue, or to get ahead with your degree by taking an additional paper in early summer of 2017 do check out the links below. The paper will be taught by Keziah Wallis both on campus, and by distance, and is offered at 200- and 300-level. To add the paper to your programme, ask for a change of course form from the University Information Centre.

2017 Pre Christmas Summer School
Representing Islam

Last year's Pre-Christmas Summer School paper (RELS 230/330 ST: Modern Judaism) will be offered in the 2018 Summer School.

Church on HydeReligion on Facebook

The Religion programme now has a Facebook page. Follow the page to get more regular updates and news about Religion events at Otago.

News archive

News items from previous years are available in the news archive.

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme