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Professor Gwilym Beckerlegge

Profile summary

  • Professor of Modern Religions and Staff Tutor in Arts
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Hist, Rel St, Soc, SP&C
  • Religious Studies
  • g.beckerlegge

Professional biography

I studied religion at the Universities of Oxford and Lancaster where I developed a particular interest in the religions of South Asia and Japan from the nineteenth century to the present. My doctoral thesis examined continuity within the Ramakrishna Math and Mission with reference to the practice of seva, service to humanity. Much of this subsequently appeared in The Ramakrishna Mission: The Making of a Modern Hindu Movement (2000) and Swami Vivekananda's Legacy of Service: A Study of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission (2006).  I have been a member of the Department of Religious Studies at The Open University since 1993 and was head of department from 2002 to 2004. In 2006/07 I held the post of Professor of the Study of Religions at University College Cork.

Contact

Professor Gwilym Beckerlegge
The Open University
351 Altrincham Road
Sharston
Manchester M22 4UN
UK

G.Beckerlegge@open.ac.uk

Research interests

i) The Hindu religious tradition from the nineteenth century to the present, with reference to the relationship between religion and social development and the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and Vivekananda Kendra in particular

ii) Popular Hindu iconography

iii) Hindutva-inspired organisations

iv) Methodology

 

Selected recent publications

Refereed journals

2013 'Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) 150 years on: critical studies of an influential Hindu guru' in Religion Compass, Vol. 7, No.10, pp.444-453

2011 ‘Seva (service to humanity): a boundary issue in the study of recent and contemporary Hindu movements’ in Man in India: A Quarterly International Journal of Anthropology, Vol.91, No.1, pp.39-56

2011  ‘Teaching about religions of South Asian origin at the Open University’, Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, Vol.10, No. 2, Spring, pp.61-77

Contributions to edited volumes

2014 ‘Eknath Ranade, gurus and jīvanvratīs (life-workers): Vivekananda Kendra’s promotion of the ‘Yoga Way of Life’’ in M.Singleton and E.Goldberg (eds.) Gurus of Modern Yoga. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.327-350

2012  ‘Media savvy or media averse?  The Ramakrishna Math and Mission’s use of the media in representing itself and a religion called “Hinduism” ‘in  J Zavos, P.Kanungo, D.Reddy, M.Warrier, R.Williams (eds.) Public Hinduisms New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. pp.398-416

 

See Open Research Online for further details of my research publications.

Work in Progress

My long-standing, main line of research into the institutional legacy of Swami Vivekananda, and seva (service to humanity) in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission  has led me in turn to  explore the role of seva in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its affiliates (the sangh parivar), and other sympathetic organisations, particularly the Vivekananda Kendra.

Much of my of my recent work has centred on the Vivekananda Kendra, based at Kanniyakumari. The outcome of my presence as a participant observer at its 2010 annual Yoga Shiksha Shibir (Yoga Training Camp), ‘Eknath Ranade, gurus and jīvanvratīs (life-workers): Vivekananda Kendra’s promotion of the "Yoga Way of Life" ’,  has been published in Mark Singleton and Ellen Goldberg (eds.) Gurus of Modern Yoga (see above). I have contributed the entry on Vivekananda Kendra, as well as that on the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, to the Brill Encyclopaedia of Hinduism.

I have been involved during 2012-14 in scholarly events related to the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, with contributions in the Indian media (see ‘Legacy of service’ in Frontline (The Hindu Newspaper Group, Chennai) Vol.30, no.2, January 26, 2013; available under 'Legacy of Service'  http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl3002/fl300200.htm), and invitations to contribute to conferences during 2013 in Delhi (organised by Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and Indian Council of Historical Research), Kolkata (organised by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture), Los Angeles (organised by University of Southern California, and Cork (organised by University College Cork).Several of my contributions on Vivekananda’s legacy at these recent conferences will appear in forthcoming edited volumes. My paper given at the University of Southern California is currently accessible on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ne1q1QFIPY0 . An audio  rcording of the paper I gave  (see below) at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is now available via that institution's website http://www.nehrumemorial.nic.in/en/55-lectures-audios/category/61-workshop.html, and the paper (see below) I gave as a termly  Majewski Lecture will shortly be available via the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies' website.

Recent seminar/conference presentations

2014 'Renunciation and service: the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, the Vivekananda Kendra, and Swami Vivekananda's Legacy' (The Majewski Lecture at the invitation of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies), The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford

2014 ‘Swami Vivekananda: A “prophet” of globalization?’ at Swami Vivekananda’s Ideas and Our Times: A Retrospect on His 150th Birth Anniversary (an international seminar sponsored by the UGC of India) at Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira (affiliated to the University of Calcutta)

2013 ‘Swami Vivekananda – 150 years on’ at Swami Vivekananda 150 Years On event, University College Cork, National University of Ireland

2013 ‘Vivekananda and his organisational legacy with particular reference to seva within the Ramakrishna movement’ at International Conference on Swami Vivekananda on the 150th Anniversary of his Birth, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

2013 ‘Swami Vivekananda’s Philosophy of Service: Assessing the Legacy of 150 Years’ at University of Roehampton (Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture series)

2013 ‘Swami Vivekananda Patriot-Prophet: Assessing a Legacy of 150 Years’ at King’s College, London (Department of Religious Studies postgraduate seminar series)

2013 ‘Expectations of Vedanta: Why has Swami Vivekananda’s message appealed to individuals in the West?’ at Conference on International Understanding on Human Unity: Past Lessons and Present Prospect, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata

2013 ‘Gathering up India’s ‘scattered spiritual forces’: Vivekananda Kendra and  the legacy of Swami Vivekananda’ at Swami Vivekananda and the Making of Modern India International Conference, organised by Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, and Indian Council of Historical Research

Teaching interests

I am currently chair of the Open University module (A217) Introducing Religions, and have been involved in the production of  Why is Religion Controversial? (A332).

Recent examples of my teaching materials include

A880 MA in Religious Study

2009 ‘Case Study: Religion and the State – the Republic of India’ (Block 1 Controversies in Religious Studies), Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp.16-29

2010 ‘Case Study 2: Hinduism in Britain – the invisible religion?’ (Block 2 Religion in Modern Britain), Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp. 22-39

2010 ‘The “Chicago Pose” of Swami Vivekananda: reflecting on research experience’ (Block 4 Methods and Methodology), Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp. 24-32

 

A332 Why is Religion Controversial?

2013 ‘Unifying Consciousness, Unifying the Nation: Competing Visions of the Future of India and the Yoga Tradition’ (Block 4 Controversial Futures), Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp. 97-140

2013 ‘No Face More Familiar: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – Mahatma Gandhi’ (Block 1 Controversial Figures – Jesus, Jonas, Gandhi, Al-Bana), Milton Keynes: The Open University, pp. 99-154

Academic consultant (devised film and conducted major interviews) for ‘Vivekananda Kendra’s “Yoga Way of Life” ‘ (25 mins.)

Academic consultant (selected material and one of two interviewees) for ‘Representations of Gandhi in Film’ (21 mins.)

External collaborations

Professional Bodies

British Association for South Asian Studies

British Association for the Study of Religion/ European Association for the Study of Religion

Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society

Other External Activities

I am on the editorial broad of  The Inclusive produced by the Kolkata Centre for Contemporary Studies

I act as a reviewer for the AHRC and the Marsden Fund Council/Royal Society of New Zealand

Currently I am external examiner for the undergraduate Religious Studies programme at the University of Roehampton, having been an external examiner for a number of universities previously

Publications

Teaching about religions of South Asian origin at The Open University: a reflection on the scope and limitations of flexible learning (2011-04)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 10(2) (pp. 61-77)
Seva (service to humanity): a boundary issue in the study of recent and contemporary Hindu movements (2011)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
Man in India, 91(1) (pp. 39-56)
'An ordinary organisation run by ordinary people': a study of leadership in Vivekananda Kendra (2010)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
Contemporary South Asia, 18(1) (pp. 71-88)
Svāmī Vivekānanda’s iconic presence and conventions of nineteenth-century photographic portraiture (2008-04)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
International Journal of Hindu Studies, 12(1) (pp. 1-40)
Responding to Conflict: A Test of the Limits of Neo–Vedāntic Social Activism in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission? (2007-04)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
International Journal of Hindu Studies, 11(1) (pp. 1-25)
Swami Vivekananda and the sangh parivar: convergent or divergent views on population, religion and national identity? (2006-06)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy, 9(2) (pp. 121-135)
The early spread of Vedanta societies: an example of 'imported localism' (2004-10)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
Numen: International Review for the History of Religions, 51(3) (pp. 296-320)
Iconographic representations of renunciation and activism in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (2004-01)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
Journal of Contemporary Religion, 19(1) (pp. 47-66)
Swami Vivekananda's legacy of service: a study of the Ramakrishna math and mission (2006-02-23)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
ISBN : 9780195673883 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : India
The Ramakrishna Mission: the Making of a Modern Hindu Movement (2000)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
ISBN : 195651332 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New Delhi
Introducing the study of religions at The Open University: the scope and limitations of a distance learning approach to the study of religions (2015)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Brun, Stanley D. ed. The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics (pp. 3765-3780)
ISBN : 978-94-017-9375-9 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Dordrecht
Eknath Ranade, gurus and jivanvratis: Vivekananda Kendra's promotion of the 'Yoga Way of Life' (2014-01)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Singleton, Mark and Goldberg, Ellen eds. Gurus of Modern Yoga (pp. 327-350)
ISBN : 978-0-19-993870-4 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New York
Media savvy or media averse? The Ramakrishna Math and Mission’s use of the media in representing itself and a religion called “Hinduism” (2012-06)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Zavos, John; Kanungo, Pralay; Reddy, Deepa S.; Warrier, Maya and Williams, Raymond eds. Public Hinduisms (pp. 398-416)
ISBN : 9788132107408 | Publisher : SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd | Published : New Delhi
Introduction (2008-06-09)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed. Colonialism, Modernity, and Religious Identities: Religious Reform Movements in South Asia (pp. 1-20)
ISBN : 9780195692143 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New Delhi, India
Religious Studies and theology in the context of secular higher education: the problem of the “methodological offer” (2008)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Warrier, Maya and Oliver, Simon eds. Theology and Religious Studies: An Exploration of Disciplinary Boundaries (pp. 167-179)
ISBN : 9780567032362 | Publisher : T. & T. Clark | Published : London
The Swami and the artist: the use of Indian art in Swami Vivekananda's Apologetics (2008)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed. Colonialism, Modernity, and Religious Identities: Religious Reform Movements in South Asia (pp. 213-238)
ISBN : 9780195692143 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New Delhi
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's 'Tradition of Selfless Service' (2004-07-15)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Zavos, John; Wyatt, Andrew and Hewitt, Vernon eds. The Politics of Cultural Mobilization in India (pp. 105-135)
ISBN : 0-19-566801-4 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New Delhi, India
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's "tradition of selfless service" (2004-03-01)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Zavos, John; Wyatt, Andrew and Hewitt, Vernon Marston eds. The Politics of Cultural Mobilization in India (pp. 105-135)
ISBN : 195668014 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The Hindu Renaissance and notions of universal religion (2004)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Wolffe, John ed. Religion in History: Conflict, Conversion and Coexistence (pp. 129-160)
ISBN : 719071070 | Publisher : Manchester University Press in association with the Open University | Published : Manchester
Saffron and seva: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's appropriation of Swami Vivekananda (2003-08-14)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Copley, Antony ed. Hinduism in public and private: Reform, Hindutva, Gender and Sampraday (pp. 31-65)
ISBN : 0-19-566393-4 | Publisher : Oxford University Press
Hindu Sacred Images for the Mass Market (2001-12)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed. From Sacred Text to Internet. Religion Today: Tradition, Modernity and Change (1) (pp. 57-116)
ISBN : 754607488 | Publisher : Ashgate in association with the Open University | Published : Aldershot, U.K.
Introduction (2001-12)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed. From Sacred Text to Internet. Religion Today: Tradition, Modernity and Change (1) (pp. 2-7)
ISBN : 754607488 | Publisher : Ashgate in association with the Open University | Published : Aldershot, U.K.
Computer-mediated religion: religion on the internet at the end of the twentieth century (2001-12)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed. From Sacred Text to Internet. Religion Today: Tradition, Modernity and Change (1) (pp. 219-264)
ISBN : 754607488 | Publisher : Ashgate in association with the Open University | Published : Aldershot, U.K.
Swami Akhandananda's sevavratra (vow of service) and the earliest expressions of service to humanity in the Ramakrishna Math and Mission (2000)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Copley, A ed. Gurus and Their Followers : New Religious Reform Movements in Colonial India (pp. 59-82)
ISBN : 195649583 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Swami Vivekananda and seva: taking "social service" seriously (1997)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Radice, W ed. Vivekananda and the Modernization of Hinduism. SOAS studies on South Asia (pp. 158-193)
ISBN : 195640128 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New Delhi
Followers of 'Mohammed, Kalee and Dada Nanuk': the presence of Islam and South Asian religions in Victorian Britiain (1997)
Beckerlegge, G.
In: Wolffe, John ed. Religion in Victorian Britain (pp. 222-267)
ISBN : 719051843 | Publisher : Manchester University Press in association with the Open University | Published : Manchester, U.K.
'Swami Vivekananda's response to the immorality of "modern famine" (1994)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym
In: Das Gupta, R.K. ed. Swami Vivekananda: A Hundred Years Since Chicago - A Commemorative Volume (pp. 308-321)
Publisher : Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission | Published : Belur, West Bengal
Colonialism, Modernity, and Religious Identities: Religious Reform Movements in South Asia (2008)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed.
ISBN : 9780195692143 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : New Delhi
From Sacred Text to Internet (2001)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed.
ISBN : 754607488 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Aldershot
The World Religions Reader (2001)
Beckerlegge, Gwilym ed.
2nd Edition
ISBN : 415247497 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

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