OU research is informing critical awareness of the historical, cultural and social contexts of contemporary religion and fostering better understanding between different religious traditions.
The focusing of OU research around the theme of ‘Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective’ has been supported by major external funding secured by John Wolffe, enabling a long-term comparative overview of Protestant-Catholic conflict, which helps to understand and address continuing tensions in Northern Ireland.
The project ‘Building on History: Religion in London’ worked with schools and with Anglicans, Baptists, Black Majority Churches, Jews, Methodists, Muslims and Roman Catholics to develop understanding of their respective histories and to share insights as a means of building links between religious groups
OU research is demonstrating the significance of marginalised, denigrated and poorly understood contemporary religions. Our research among Pagans, indigenous peoples and ‘spirituality’ movements has shaped the discipline, notably through Graham Harvey’s pathbreaking book Food, Sex and Strangers (2013), and also assisted, for example, the Druid Network UK to gain charitable status, and helped councillors and ‘alternative’ and mainstream businesses to understand better Glastonbury’s international importance as a pilgrimage site, and the economic benefits that flow from this.