About our research
Theology & Religious Studies at King’s College London is a highly integrated multidisciplinary Department with research specialisms in:
Religion in Eastern Asia
Sustained multi-disciplinary engagement with Religion in Eastern Asia has evolved out of the prospects with China identified as a strategic priority in 2008. In 2008 the appointment of Xinzhong Yao as Professor of Chinese Religions brought Confucian Studies to the Unit; in 2011 the King’s-Renmin Partnership in Philosophy and Religion was inaugurated with a conference in Beijing; and Yao now directs the College’s newly endowed Lau China Institute. These innovations have facilitated a revival of Buddhist Studies, anchored by a new Professorship (Kate Crosby) and already invigorated by a major funded project on Southeast Asian manuscript collections in Oxford, Cambridge, Thailand and Burma, a major 7-year project on Late Imperial Chinese Buddhist texts, a Senior Research Fellowship (Andrew Skilton) and 3 post-doctoral fellows. Social-scientific research on Islam in Indonesia (Kersten) and on indigenous religion in South-West China and Mongolia (Swancutt) has further strengthened engagement with Religion in Eastern Asia.
Throughout the current period this engagement has retained a strong theological dimension, intensified through new work in Transformation Theology (Davies, Janz, Sedmak), notably within the framework of the King’s-Renmin partnership. Articles on Transformation Theology in the Chinese context are both published and forthcoming in leading Chinese journals.
Anthropology and Sociology of Religion
Research in Jewish Studies at King’s brings together staff and graduate students who combine the intense study of Jewish sources in their historical contexts with inquiries into their relevance for current issues and debates in multi-religious and multi-cultural societies. Research focuses on three interrelated and partially overlapping areas:
- Jewish mobility and cross-communal relations in the diaspora
- Varieties of Jewish-Christian interaction and their significance for multi-religious societies today
- Religion and secularism as interconnected and conflicting formations in Jewish thought and practice from the early modern period to the present day
The cooperation between Jewish Studies and the Digital Humanities, including joint PhD supervision, offers further opportunities for innovative research.
Jewish Studies at King’s has become a centre of intellectual exchange and networking across disciplinary and other boundaries, involving scholars and graduate students of many different backgrounds. Colleagues are working with experts from Leo Baeck College as well as the London School of Jewish Studies to create a vibrant research community, which interacts regularly and productively through international workshops, study days and research seminars.
Social Sciences in the Department form a vibrant, dynamic, and diverse research environment that is firmly grounded in, but not cowed by, the classical disciplinary traditions of Sociology, Social Anthropology, and Political Science. It involves established academics, younger scholars, and talented research students whose academic expertise and interests comprise a wide array of topics, issues, and geographical areas - from the provenance and socio-political implications of religious innovation in Western Europe and Russia to ‘animistic’ and ‘shamanic’ religions in Southwest China and Northwest Mongolia, and from Islamic education in North Africa to contemporary anti-Semitism and discrimination of ethno-religious minorities in Europe.
Our weekly Social Sciences and Religion Research Seminar provides a lively and thought-provoking forum for both academics and postgraduate students to discuss cutting-edge research presented by world-renowned academics, younger scholars and doctoral candidates. We hold high-profile international conferences focused on the significant trends and issues in the relationships between religion, the individual, community, and society as well as public events and workshops in collaboration with the King's Global Institutes. Finally, our academics and postgraduates are fully engaged in the variety of academic events and networks in London, such as Westminster Faith Debates, and they benefit from the unique opportunities to observe the immense diversity of religious groups and activities in the city.
History of Christianity
Biblical Studies is a vibrant and growing research area at King's. Staff research interests lie in the history, language and literature of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and extend to Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity post-100CE. There is also a concern with the reception and contemporary use of the Bible. We recently held a conference on the Bible on TV, and in June 2014, we are hosting a major international conference on Jesus and Monty Python's Life of Brian.
All members of staff are engaged in research at the highest level. Recently published books by staff members include Lamentations Through the Centuries (Paul Joyce, with Diana Lipton, 2013), Prophecy in the Ancient Near East (Jonathan Stökl, 2012), The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea (Joan Taylor, 2012), The Earliest Christian Meeting Places (Edward Adams, 2013). In 2013, Richard Burridge was awarded the Ratzinger Prize for his contribution to scholarship on Jesus and the Gospels.
The Biblical Studies Research Seminar brings together staff and graduate students to hear and discuss the latest work in the field and features established scholars as well as provides a forum for our research students to share their discoveries. We hold regular subject area conferences and study days in which a celebrated biblical scholar presents on her/his current research.
Currently our research students are engaged in a diverse range of studies from the creation of ‘lives’ after death in the Hebrew Bible to the interpretation of the book of Revelation as pastiche. A recent collaborative enterprise involving staff and doctoral student has produced the volume, The Body in Biblical, Christian and Jewish Texts (ed. Joan Taylor, forthcoming).
Members of staff in the research area are committed to public engagement and are regularly consulted by and interviewed by the media. Edward Adams was academic advisor for the award-winning series, David Suchet in the Footsteps of St Paul, shown during Christmas 2012 on BBC1, and Joan Taylor was academic advisor for The Mystery of Mary Magdalene, broadcast during Easter 2013 on BBC1.
The modern history of Christianity in Britain in the Department covers the entire period from the Reformation to post-war Britain. It is represented by two full-time members of staff whose research interests and approaches cross political, intellectual, cultural and social history and who are particularly keen to relate their work to the long past and vibrant contemporary life of religion in London. Dr David Crankshaw is a historian of the 16th and 17th centuries with particular research interests in ecclesiastical statesmanship, Elizabethan government, confessionalisation, St Paul’s Cathedral and the career of Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury 1559-75. Dr Michael Ledger-Lomas is a historian of Christianity in modern Britain whose particular research interests are Protestant dissent, Protestant internationalism, the evolution of biblical criticism and theology in 19th century Britain and Europe and the history of religious publishing.
The history of Christianity at King’s is well integrated both with the School of Arts & Humanities and with other universities in and beyond London. The two historians teach the history of Christianity for the Department of Education. Crankshaw contributes to the Department of History’s MA in Early Modern History, while Ledger-Lomas offers seminar teaching for a new and interdisciplinary MA in Nineteenth Century Studies. At the Institute of Historical Research, Crankshaw co-convenes the Religious History of Britain 1500-1800 seminar and is organising (under that seminar’s auspices) a conference on Church and State due to take place at Westminster Abbey in 2014. At the University of Cambridge, Dr Ledger-Lomas is a director of ‘The Bible and Antiquity in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, a five-year research project (2012-2017) with European Research Council funding. Both historians are available to supervise MPhil and PhD students on a wide range of research topics.
The Bible Group explores the relationship in 19th century Britain between the classics and the Bible: two interlocking and sometimes rival sources of intellectual and spiritual authority. In addition to pursuing their own research projects, members of the Group are building up a community of interested scholars by staging seminars and international conferences, some of which will issue in multi-authored volumes. They are also planning a major exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge on the interplay of the Bible and the classics in Victorian art and visual culture, provisionally entitled ‘Athens and Jerusalem’.
Patristic Studies and the History of Theology
Islamic Studies has become a growth area within the Department. It is highly distinctive in its emphasis on Islamic intellectual history, covering the entire period from pre-modern to contemporary times. Concentration areas include political Islam, modern Muslim thought, Sufism and Muslim philosophy and theology. Geographically speaking, our particular strengths lie in Islam in Southeast Asia and Islam in Persianate lands in addition to the Arab world, which enable students to engage in textual studies of Islamic thought in various cultural-linguistic contexts. The expansion of our field is marked by an increasing number of postgraduate students pursuing projects in these and other subjects, as well as by the extension of the Department’s activities through international research networks and our pioneering efforts into researching Islam in Southeast Asia.
Situated on the crossroads with Theology and Religious Studies, Middle East and Mediterranean Studies and Conflict Studies, the study of Islam and the Muslim World is developing into a dynamic field. Dr Kazuyo Murata is an associate academic staff of the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s.
Research links also extend beyond the College. As a founding member of the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS), Dr Carool Kersten serves on the association’s advisory board. In addition he is the editor of the book series on Contemporary Thought in the Islamic Worldfor Ashgate and a co-investigator in the research project ‘Between Politics and Ethics: Towards A New World Culture of Hospitality and Non-Violence’ (2014-2016), funded by the Slovenian Research Agency and hosted by the University of Primorska in Koper, Slovenia. Dr Kersten’s research and expertise also takes his work outside the academic community into the media, resulting in regular interviews with printmedia and frequent appearances on radio and TV.
Philosophy of Religion
We have established a network with an international research and teaching community whose interests span from Hellenistic, Jewish, Biblical and Post-biblical religious traditions, the beginnings of Christianity, 2nd and 3rd century Christianities, Neoplatonism, Philosophy and Theology of the 4th and 5th centuries (especially the Arian and Apolinarian debates, Cyril of Alexandria), to Byzantine topics (for example Question and Answer Literature up to the Middle Ages) and High Medieval Philosophy and Theology of the 13th and 14th centuries (with a focus on Meister Eckhart, the Dominican tradition, and grammatology with Thomas of Erfurt).
Links & outputs
We have as a group established a strong reputation for producing critical editions, and commentaries, using cutting edge methods (phylogenetic methods from Biology and Applied Statistics), commentaries, but also studies in the history of ideas across a variety of ancient languages (ancient Greek, Latin, Slavonic, Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Syriac and Coptic). We have focused also on non-literary sources such as papyri and epigraphs, but also on the material fabric of Western civilization such as art and iconography, particularly in an archaeological context. Our researchers have contributed to the study of Lived Ancient Religions (LAR). Particularly at the earliest period we have focused on the need for an extensive re-examination of the interface between Early Christian history and Classical Culture, as well as its enduring medieval legacy. We have sought to interact with current Classical studies on the cultural as well as historical phenomenon of the Second Sophistic to understand the process of Christianity in the transformation of culture. Hence we have shown a strong interest in a multidisciplinary approach to Patristics and the History of Theology.
Our network-community is closely related to other major centres like the Augustinianum (Rome) with the British School at Rome ; the Max Weber Kolleg (University of Erfurt, Germany); the Angelicum (Rome); the Institute for Medieval Philosophy, University of Lecce; University of Paris (Sorbonne); the Greek Studies Department of the KULeuven, Belgium; the University of Lund, Sweden; and University of Oxford). We are actively pursuing further critical funding for research projects with an on-ground presence in Rome that will give further form and structure to our emerging collaborative model with these institutions, developing in concrete and particular forms our emerging network.
King’s Patristics is the home of Studia Patristica and Studia Patristica Supplements (main editors for both Professor Markus Vinzent and Professor Allen Brent), and of Eckhart: Texts and Studies (editor Professor Markus Vinzent). Here are beginning the concrete forms of the collaboration that has been established in the research projects currently pursued to be continued with future funding.
Research in our fields has been and is still supported by large grant projects, related international workshops and conferences with shorter and longer research stays abroad and funded research students. During the years 2010-2012, the British Academy granted over £100.000 to the study of ‘Early Christian Iconography and Epigraphy’ which resulted in several edited volumes and monographs which are being published ( M. Vinzent and A. Brent [eds], Early Christian Iconographies, Studia Patristica 59 [Leuven: Peeters, 2013] ; further vols in print). King’s has received substantial funding from the European Research Council for the five-year project ‘Defining Belief and Identities in the Eastern Mediterranean which investigates the formation of religious belief and identities in the eastern Mediterranean (6th - 8th centuries AD) as well as from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the project Meister Eckhart and the Parisian University in the early 14th century.
King’s Patristics Seminar and the Seminar in the History of Theology brings together national and international scholars (also young career scholars) to present new findings and exchange ideas with students and scholars at King’s and of other universities in and around London. But we have established international links with both Hungary (Petsch (Soprianae), having held a joint conference there in June, 2012, and with the Augustinianum and British School at Rome, where we conducted lectures and workshops in the past. The inner-college and –departmental links to related areas provides a research and teaching framework which complements in many ways interests of the Patristic’s community.
History of Patristics at King's College London
Our group is heir to a long and distinguished Patristics tradition at King’s. Dr Graham Gould, who taught in our Department from 1990 to 2003 after which the position was left vacant, remains at present one of the two main editors of the flagship for British Theology, the Journal of Theological Studies. He has also remained an active member of our King’s Patristics Seminar and our Coptic study-group. His predecessor was Stuart Hall, Professor of Ecclesiastical History from 1978 to 1990, today Honorary Professor of Divinity, St. Andrews, and famous for some of the classic text books of Patristics, such as Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church (1991) . Although during the years 1976 to 1978 the post in Patristics was frozen, colleagues in Ecclesiastical History included early Church History in their lecture courses. Prior to this, however, important Professors in Historical Theology were Eric Lionel Mascall (appointed in 1962) and his predecessor Dennis Eric Nineham (appointed in 1954). He, like his predecessor Robert Victor Sellers (appointed in 1948), was Professor not only of Historical but also of Biblical Theology, and was assisted by Maurice Valentine Mandeville as Lecturer in Patristic Texts. That this combination represented an enduring tradition at King’s can be seen from the example of Randolph Vincent Greenwood Tasker, promoted in 1946/7 to Professorship in Patristic Texts and Exegesis of the New Testament, after having been at King’s already from 1926 as Lecturer in Exegesis of the New Testament, and from 1930 Lecturer in Patristic Texts. When he became Professor, he was assisted by Eric George Jay as Lecturer in Patristic Texts, before Jay moved on to become Professor of Systematic Theology at McGill University.
Religion and the Arts
Philosophy of Religion at King’s is highly distinctive in its emphasis on ethical, existential and socially-engaged philosophical approaches to religion. Collectively our research expands the established subject-area by developing philosophies of religious life and practice, drawing on traditions such as phenomenology, virtue ethics, existentialism and transcendental philosophy. We also share a focus on modernity, both through our expertise in Kantian and post-Kantian European philosophy, and in our interest in contemporary global religion. Much of our research is interdisciplinary: for example, current work in the Department explores the relationship between philosophy and theology; philosophy and literature; philosophy and neuroscience; and philosophy and film.
The fortnightly seminar of the Research Institute for Systematic Theology provides a forum for discussing new work in the Philosophy of Religion, and exploring its connections with theology in particular. Our innovative philosophical research contributes to collaborations through the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s. The Department has a long-standing involvement with Religious Studies, the UK’s leading Philosophy of Religion journal: two King’s philosophers of religion are currently on the journal’s Editorial Board and run its Book Reviews office.
Public engagement is integral to our research in the Philosophy of Religion, since much of our work engages the ‘big questions’ that are of wide public interest. Our research-led media work offers accessible, high-quality resources for A-level teachers and students as well as to general audiences.
Since 2007, the study of the relationship between religious traditions and the arts has become one of the flagship areas of research in the Department, and is now viewed as one of the Department’s strategic priorities. Research in this area informs not only many of the publications and doctoral theses produced in our Department, but resources innovative conference themes and teaching programmes (including the MA in Christianity and the Arts, which is run in partnership with the National Gallery) and a range of collaborations with the cultural sector and the creative industries.
In 2011, we were pleased to establish formally the Centre for the Arts and the Sacred at King’s (ASK). The website of the Centre, and its archive, will give a picture of just how rich the research environment in this area has become at King’s, and just how diverse our links and research outputs are. The Centre now encompasses several major collaborative projects, including research initiatives in Buddhist Art History and Conservation, with the Courtauld Institute, and a BARDA-funded project on Early “Christian” Art and Iconography After Dölger.
We run a regular joint research seminar with the Courtauld (the Sacred Traditions and the Arts Seminar), and an intensive programme of talks and seminars by artists, curators and collectors. The Centre welcomes visiting artists and postgraduate researchers at all stages of their careers. Our work in this area is further enriched and extended by a strong interdisciplinary team of research scholars from other Departments within the School of Arts and Humanities, who act as associate academic staff of the Centre. We work very closely with the King’s Cultural Institute, to which Ben Quash is an academic advisor.
The Theology division at King’s College London can generally be characterised in terms of its engagement, both critical and constructive, with a number of key elements within Christian doctrinal, theological, philosophical and practical traditions. It includes scholars who engage principally with theology and ethics, theology and the arts, theology and philosophy, theology and scripture, patristic theology, mediaeval theology and contemporary constructive theology.
A number of close collaborations have taken place between these scholars, and theological discussion at King’s finds its focus in the fortnightly seminar of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology. Further contacts regularly take place with the Practical Theology and Theology of Ministry division (Alister McGrath, Pete Ward, Philip Barnes, Anna Rowlands), and with staff from neighbouring Christian institutions, including Westminster Abbey.
Theology of Transformation is a collaborative venture by a number of staff, leading to several publications (Transformation Theology, Davies, Janz and Sedmak, 2007;The Command of Grace , Janz; Theology of Transformation , Davies, 2013; Communion in Act , Davies and Sedmak, in preparation). This contemporary re-orientation of theology based at King’s has attracted a thriving Centre for Doctoral Studies working on diverse aspects and applications of a transformational Christian hermeneutic and is opening up new dialogues internationally across denominational and theological boundaries.
Across the range of these subdisciplines, our research is driven by a commitment to respond to a 21st century world coming to terms with its social, cultural and religious diversity, set within the context of College priorities of globalisation and public engagement.
With almost 40 academic staff, making it among the largest of its kind in the UK, the Department sustains nine separate research seminars, each meeting weekly or fortnightly across the academic year, a very large cohort of PhD students, nine post-doctoral researchers, and currently holds major research grants to a combined value of £2 million.
Several departmental Research Centres facilitate dynamic integration among our subdisciplines across areas of shared thematic interest, thereby contributing to a research infrastructure which nurtures collaboration and interdisciplinarity alongside excellence, fostering further productive alliances both within the College and with major international partners.