Religious History Association, Presidentís report: 8 June 2017

The RHA was well represented at the Wellington meeting ANZAMEMS (association for medieval and early modern studies), 7-10 Feb, and then at a specialist international conference in Dunedin on medieval political theory in honour of Cary Nederman, by both myself a President, and Jason Taliadoros, one of the two hard working editors of the Journal of Religious History. The publicity brochure, produced by Wiley, was of great value in being included in the publicity bag of the ANZAMEMS conference, a practice we want to see continued at any conferences relating to religious history, including the upcoming AHA conference at Newcastle, to which is attached a special symposium on the history of marriage.

In January 2017, shortly before the Wellington conference, a sub-committee meeting was called relating to examine the finances of the JRH. It was attended by Katharine Massam, myself and the two editors, with Fotini Toso (who had worked for Wiley) as offering specialist advice. The treasurer had observed that increases (announced by U of Sydney) in the pay of Anna Haunton threatened to exceed our income. The meeting was called to consider approaching Wiley to renegotiate the terms of our 10 year contract, which allowed for $22K (with allowance for regular increases) towards costs of running JRH supplemented by royalties.

Also discussed at that meeting was the practical issue of disbursement of the $10,000 allocated to the editors and editorial board to defray travel/accomodation expenses incurred in promotion of the journal overseas. It was agreed that adequate notice of such requests should normally be given to the Treasurer, for the sake of regulating finances.

Following a meeting with our Wiley representative, Rosie Duffy (by myself and the two editors) on 15 April 2017, we learned that there was no realistic opportunity of renegotiating the contract,but we did learn that there had been a significant increase in subscriptions and backorders for the journal (from China in particular) and that through paid subscriptions, licenses and philanthropic initiatives, the journal is available in over 11,000 institutions globally. Usage of JRH content increased to over 56,000 full-text downloads in 2016, while royalty payable to the RHA for the year was AU$14,123. This is basically very good news, meaning that we are able to cover our commitments for employing Anna Haunton, at least in the medium term.

 

Independently of this, I was also approached by Lisa Johnstone of Sage Publishing UK (a private family owned company, specialising in journals), whether we might like to meet up with Caroline Lock, Publisher of their Humanities and Social Science Journals Team, when she was visiting Melbourne. Jo Cruikshank and myself met her on 3 April, to listen to her present what Sage could offer. They are a significant player, in the top five firms, controlling humanities journals. Our sense was that Wiley is still a larger outfit, and that while it was of interest to learn about what they offer, JRH may stick with Wiley at least for the immediate term, prior to renegotiating our contract in 2021.

 

The other major development to report is following up our decision last November to release up to $5000 to holding a PATS (post grad advanced training seminar) relating to religious history. Rather than announce a call for PATS, it was decided to go ahead with a PATS and Symposiumn event on 18 August, jointly at Monash and then at Pilgrim College, on Devotion, Gender and the Body in the Religious Cultures of Europe 1100-1800. The event will bring together various scholars, together, with a view to creating a special issue of the JRH:

Dr Lisa Beaven(Centre for the History of the Emotions, University of Melbourne)

Assoc. Professor Erin Griffey (Dept of Art History, University of Auckland)

Dr Claire Walker (Dept of History, University of Adelaide)

Prof. Claire Waters (Dept of English, University of California at Davis) [who is happening to be visiting Melbourne at this time]

Prof. Constant Mews (Centre for Religious Studies, Monash University)

 

Bursaries have been advertised to assist attendance of postgraduates and early career researchers. It is to be hoped the RHA can continue to assist postgraduates while also promoting the interests of the JRH. It will be important to cover in the future all aspects of religious history, from ancient to contemporary Australia.

 

Professor Constant J. Mews FAHA

President, Religious History Association