Remarks about BAHAR for the Launch of the New School of History, Archaeology and Religion, September 2010

The Research Group on Body, Health and Religion (BAHAR) was formed within the then School of Religious and Theological Studies (RELIG) in March 2008, initially through bringing together various research activities in the School in the area of the anthropology of religion and the anthropology of healing that were being directed by Geoffrey Samuel and Santi Rozario. These included two large-scale projects on Tibetan Buddhism funded by the AHRC and Leverhulme Trust, and a third on Islam and young Bangladeshis in Bangladesh and the UK funded by the ESRC, as well as a number of smaller projects.

The name, BAHAR, stands for Body, Health and Religion. It is also a word in many Asian languages, from Turkey to India, referring to the spring season, youth and vitality. Our research group rapidly developed into a national and international network of scholars, with around sixty members at present. Members of this wider group came together in two residential weekend workshops in 2008 and 2009, as well as in a number of panels at conferences, such as the 2008 Ritual Dynamics and Science of Ritual Conference at Heidelberg and the 2009 International Conference on Traditional Asian Medicine in Bhutan.

More recently, Cardiff Members of BAHAR have organised conference panels at the Australian Anthropological Society conference in Sydney last December and the International Association of Tibetan Studies conference in Vancouver last August, as well as co-organising the one-day CHRI Conference on Sustainability and the Humanities last May. Currently, Geoffrey and Santi are in Australia, where Geoffrey is giving a series of lectures and seminars as University Buddhist Educational Foundation Visiting Professor in Buddhist Studies at the University of Sydney, and Santi is a visiting research fellow at the University of Western Sydney. Santi will be back at the end of September, and Geoffrey in mid-October.

BAHAR members working at present within SHARE include four members of academic staff (Geoffrey Samuel, Santi Rozario, Colin Millard, and Bulbul Siddiqi) and two part-time administrative staff (Dawn Collins and Alvina Gillani). Bulbul and Dawn are both also working on PhDs within BAHAR. A third PhD student, Queenie Eng, is currently in the writing-up stage, while a fourth, Susannah Deane, is commencing shortly. We hope to recruit more research students in the near future and are also working on plans for a Masters degree in the BAHAR area.

Other Cardiff staff actively involved with BAHAR include Ian Kenway, who is a joint COMSC-SHARE Honorary Research Fellow, and Judi Loach, Director of the Researcher and Graduate School in the Humanities. Several other members of academic staff at Cardiff University and the University of Glamorgan are also part of the BAHAR network.

Our first major research grant, the AHRC grant on Tibetan longevity practices, ended in September last year, and a number of publications from this project have already appeared or are currently in progress. The ESRC project on Young Bangladeshis and the Leverhulme Grant project on Tibetan Bon medicine are both still under way, and there will be international workshops associated with these two projects in November 2010 and January 2011 respectively. A new British Academy-funded research project on Bhutanese state ritual will involve a fieldwork visit to Bhutan in December 2010, a visit to Cardiff by Dasho Karma Ura, Director of the Centre for Bhutan Studies, in March 2011 and another international workshop in May 2011. We are also working on plans for a third residential workshop, to take place later in 2011, as well as developing several further grant applications.

While you can find some material on BAHAR on the SHARE web pages, more up to date information is located on our external website and on this BAHAR blog. The website is currently being revised and extended to include more detailed information about our various research projects, including audio and video material. The BAHAR blog includes information about forthcoming BAHAR seminars, including our next seminar on 4th November, when Jane Boyd, a well-known British artist who works with light-based installations, will speak about how we interact with space and the built environment.

As you can see, BAHAR is an active group, which supports a quite extensive research programme, numerous workshops, conference panels and sessions, and is generating a large number of publications, including several recent and forthcoming books and special journal issues, as well as bringing very substantial funding into the University and the School. We look forward to continuing our work within the new, and hopefully more supportive, academic context of the new School. We are also very interested in new members, and would encourage anyone interested in our activities, or in engaging in joint projects with us, to contact us. The BAHAR offices are on the ground floor at 10 Museum Place – so do come along and meet us.


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