Religious History Association, President’s report: AGM 6 June 2018

Religious History Association, President’s report: AGM 6 June 2018

As President, I do not have a great deal to report since our last meeting on 15 November 2017. The Journal continues to prosper under Wiley, with our interests looked after by Chloe Chadwick (who took over from Rosie Duffy in August of last year). Over January/February, they migrated the journal to a new platform (Literatutum), on which the new home page is working, which I trust all will agree is a most impressive display. I must also thank Jason Taliodoros and Joanne Cruickshank for their stirling work on a steady stream of issues, notably on New Perspectives on Secularisation in Britain (and Beyond) in December 2017 (vol. 41 issue 4) and two subsequent issues in March and June 2018. I gather there may be issues about potential use of colour for certain special issues, but I leave that to the editors to raise.

Chloe Chadwick has informed us that 2017 showed continued strong performance for JRH, with article downloads reaching over 61,000, an increase of 18% on prior year. Circulation increased to reach over 12,600 institutions worldwide, supported by EBSCO and philanthropic access. JRH also continues to deliver consistent times to Editorial decision and publication – factors that we know are important to authors and influence their decision about where to publish.

Income was a little down in 2017 but she explains that in 2016 two single large back-file deals in China and France resulted in a spike in backfiles revenue – (18,431 AUD in 2016, when compared with 3,821 AUD in 2015). As backfiles are a one-off sale, this is a revenue stream that we expect to see gradually decline, making 2016’s spike truly the exception, rather than the norm. As you may notice, 2017 is more in-line with a trend of gradual increase (and what we would expect) when compared with 2015, with 2016 being the exception.

Subscription and licensed revenue were relatively steady in 2017 and funded access and pay per view are one-off payments and therefore fluctuation in these streams is to be expected. Other factors at play included a weaker Australian dollar which unfortunately did not work in our favour in 2017.

She also informed us that because the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into on 25 May, it is necessary for all journals to include a privacy policy statement in the author submission workflow. I have accepted this on behalf of the Association.

In March the Mansfield Prize subcommittee (Shurlee Swain, Glen O Brien and myself) decided to award the prize for the best article published in 2016 to NICHOLAS DEAN BRODIE for his article “Quaker Dreaming: The “Lost” Cotton Archive and the Aborigines of Van Diemen’s Land” published in the Journal of Religious History, September 2016, Vol.40(3), pp.303-325 This was the assessment given by the judges:
This article provided an important revisionist essay, examining the way a Quaker archive purportedly preserved for over a century and a half by William Cotton Jackson (1909-81) and published in 2013 as Land of the sleeping gods : untold history and mythology of the Tasmanian Aborigines, memorialized aboriginal culture in early Tasmania. It argues that claims that this archive preserved such traditions in secret are essentially the inventions of a later generation. The Mansfield Prize committee commended its close attention to archival sources, and its reassessment of how Quaker traditions participated in colonial and post-colonial historicism.

I am not personally familiar with major publications, conferences and events relating to religious history here in Australia over the last six months, but I am keen to be informed. Preparations are underway for the series of sessions within the AHA conference coming up in Canberra on 3 and 4 July 2018: Sensory Cultures and the Communication of Belief, at which we are looking forward to the plenary lecture by Katherine Butler Schofield, a musicologist who works on South Asian music, the history of Mughal India (1526–1858) and Islam and Sufism, among other topics.

The History Dept of the University of Southern Queensland is hosting the Australian Historical Association’s annual conference at the Empire Theatres in Toowoomba next year, 8-12 July, 2019. The conference theme is ‘Local Communities, Global Networks’, which I think would be of potential interest to members of the RHA. We still need to identify members who might be involved in promoting this strand. They need to make contact with the coordinator, Catherine Dewhirst [email protected]

I also mention that the next meeting of the newly established European Academy of Religion will hold its 2019 meeting on 4-7 March at Bologna, Information about the deadlines will be posted on the RHA website.

It remains to congratulate Kerrie Handasyde on the successful conclusion of her doctorate, celebrated here in Parkville last week, and to thank her for her work as treasurer, as well as Katharine Massam as secretary.

My apologies for a rather brief report for this first half of the year, but I look forward to learning of other developments.

Yours faithfully

Professor Constant Mews
President, Religious History Association