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.
Professor Gwilym Beckerlegge
The Open University
351 Altrincham Road
Manchester M22 4UN
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.)
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
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