Current research students

The Department of Religion and Theology has over forty research students currently registered. Here is a selection of some of these students and their research activities:

Esra AkayDag (PhD)

Doctoral project:The Contribution of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to Inter-religious Dialogue and Its Relevancy with The Presidency of Turkish Religious Affairs.
Research details: My research focuses on the areas of Christian and possible Islamic theology of religions and inter-faith dialogue. Specifically, it researches Rowan Williams' theological and practical contribution to inter-faith dialogue and also questions to what extend his theological and practical stand can be useful for Turkish Religious Affairs.

Expected Finish Date: September 2014
Supervisor(s): Professor Gavin D'Costa

James Arcadi (PhD)

Doctoral project: 'Knowing Christ in the Breaking of Bread': An Analytic Theology of the Eucharist
Research details: I make use of analytic philosophy of religion in order to make a case for the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist. My work also draws on recent work in Speech-Act Theory to provide an exposition of the words of institution.

Expected Finish Date: June 2014
Supervisor(s): Dr Oliver Crisp and Professor Carolyn Muessig

Emma Callister

Emma Callister (PhD)

Doctoral project: 'Unity with Christ' in the thought of Bernard of Clairvaux and Martin Luther
Research details: My research is a theological comparison between the thought of Bernard of Clairvaux and Martin Luther. More particularly, I am looking at their theologies of unity with Christ and justification.

Expected Finish Date: June 2014
Supervisor(s): Professor Carolyn Muessig and Dr Jon Balserak

Chao-Chun Liu

Chao-Chun Liu (MLitt)

Doctoral project: The Patristic Doctrine of Deification in Caspar Schwenckfeld (1490-1561)
Research details: My project is to examine the reception of the patristic doctrine of deification in the theology of Caspar Schwenckfeld. My overall aim is to demonstrate that the patristic understanding of salvation as deification is not a unique teaching of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, far less a pagan, Hellenistic import into the Christian faith, but a common Christian heritage that has been preserved and developed throughout Western tradition even among early Protestant Reformers, Schwenckfeld being an outstanding example.

Expected Finish Date: April 2018
Supervisor(s): Professor Gavin D'Costa and Dr Jon Balserak

Jessica Cheetham

Jessica Cheetham (PhD)

Doctoral project: Comparing self-mutilation in medeival holy women and the present day clinical population
Research details: I am looking at the phenomenon of self-injury in the lives of medieval mystics and asking whether it is the same psychiatric behaviour exhibited by individuals in the present day clinical population. My research hopes to illuminate the medieval practice and enhance our understanding of medieval religion as well as beginning to chart the history of self-mutilation an how that interacts with women's history and the idea of being a female body in different socio-cultural contexts.

Expected Finish Date: September 2015
Supervisor(s): Professor Carolyn Muessig

Oleksandr Demchenko

Oleksandr Demchenko (MLitt)

Doctoral project: A history of samadhi
Research details:I am tracing the history of concentrative meditation (dhyana and samadhi) in Indian religions up to the 5th c. CE. On a broader perspective, I am interested in the Pali Canon of Buddhism as well as in comparative philosophy and religion - particularly, in comparative studies of contemplative practices.

Expected Finish Date: September 2015
Supervisor(s): Professor Rupert Gethin

Laura Frude

Laura Frude (MLitt Part-Time)

Doctoral project: To What Extent is the Category of Magic Useful as a Way of Understanding Theravada Ritual?
Research details:In my research I shall be exploring whether elements of Theravada Buddhist ritual can be classified as ‘magic’.The term ‘magic’ can be used to categorise a number of practices and actions that are used to manipulate, predict and control events. In the fields of religious studies and anthropology magic is often discussed in terms of its relationship with religion. The research will explore the functions of religious ritual within Theravada Buddhism and how this interacts with notions of magic.

Expected Finish Date: June 2015
Supervisor(s): Dr Rita Langer

Hilary P. Herdman

Hilary P. Herdman (PhD)
Doctoral project: Pilgrimage:  Comparative study in the Buddhist and Roman Catholic traditions
Research details:My research focuses on the development of three types of pilgrimage practices:  pilgrimage to life-events of the founder, or commemorative pilgrimage, pilgrimage to relics of the founder and important disciples, and pilgrimage to relics of “use” or contact relics.  I examine the historical development in two traditions from the earliest evidence up until c. 600 CE.  I compare sources that later come to be considered canonical with other written evidence and then study that in conjunction with architectural and epigraphic remains that testify to the practice.  I emphasise the emergence of new trends in the rise of pilgrimage in both traditions by analysing the very different circumstances that produced practices that may appear to have striking similarities.

Expected Finish Date: October 2016
Supervisor(s): Professor Paul Williams

Ali Pemble (PhD)

Doctoral project: Sound the trumpet: medieval musical representations of Christ the Logos as harmony
Research details: My research explores how 11th and 12th century writers and artists used musical imagery, both harmonic and instrumental, to represent Christ as the source of all harmony (physical, spiritual, moral, scriptural, eschatological). This is done through an analysis of medieval Logos doctrine, exploring the different meanings of the Greek term logos as word, reason, number and cosmic harmonizing principle.

Expected Finish Date: December 2014
Supervisor(s): Professor Carolyn Muessig (Religion and Theology) and Dr Emma Hornby (Music)

Luke Perera (PhD)

Doctoral project:‘For the Sake of All Sentient Beings’: A Christian Interpretation of the Bodhisattva Ideal in Mahayana Buddhism
Research details:My primary research interest concerns those branches of Christian theology which attempt to come to terms with religious plurality and religious difference, 'theology of religions' and 'comparative theology'. My particular project considers attempts by Christians to learn from Mahayana Buddhism and compares the bodhisattva ideal of Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara with the ideal of co-redemption found in the writings of two Carmelite nuns (St Thérèse of Lisieux and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity).

Expected Finish Date: March 2016
Supervisor(s): Professor Gavin D'Costa and Professor Rupert Gethin

Indaka Weerasekera

Indaka Weerasekera (MLitt Part-Time)
Doctoral project: The Notion of Solitude in Pali Buddhist Literature
Research details:My research explores the conception and practice of solitude, primarily in the Pali canon of early Buddhism. In undertaking an exegetical study into the various encounters with solitariness, I aim to trace its relationships with other practices and determine what is distinctive about the meaning of solitude within these sources of Buddhist texts.

Expected Finish Date: March 2018
Supervisor(s): Professor Rupert Gethin

Karen Wendland (MLitt)

Doctoral project: The Significance of Numbers in Early Buddhist Texts
Research details:My research focuses on the significance of numbers in early Buddhist literature. I investigate both the structure and content of texts of the Theravada Pali Canon. I also explore the origins of some of the more prominent numbers and numbered lists, which can be found in Brahmanical and Jain sermons too.

Expected Finish Date: March 2015
Supervisor(s): Professor Rupert Gethin

Andrew Wormald

Andrew Wormald (PhD)
Doctoral project: Voices of Experience: Meditation and Modernity in Republican-era China
Research details:My thesis examines the manner in which Buddhist discourses around meditation practice were influenced by various historical changes associated with the modern period. I focus in particular on attitudes towards “religious experience”, seeking to understand how Republican-era Chinese Buddhists thought about, discussed and practised meditation. In doing so, I have examined the writings of intellectual reformers such as Ven. Taixu, more conservative figures such as Ven. Laiguo and Ven. Xuyun, as well as the role of the laity in the writings of Fan Gunong and Jiang Weiqiao. This research, therefore, has implications for wider understandings of Chinese and Buddhist modernity as well as for the category of “experience” within the Study of Religions.

Expected Finish Date: 2012/13
Supervisor(s): Professor John Kieschnick

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