Jonathan Doney BA(Hons), PGCE, PGDip, MSc, AHEA

Department: Graduate School of Education

Project Summary

Title: ‘That would be an Ecumenical matter...’: A Foucaultian Analysis of the relationship between the development of ‘post-confessional’ World Religions teaching in English Religious Education and the legitimization of dialogue between Christians and those of other world views by the Christian Ecumenical Movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

Summary: My PhD has grown out of the combination of previous theological research that I have undertaken on non-conformist responses to the ecumenical (cross-denominational Christian) movement and historical research into the nature and purpose of Religious Education (RE) in English education. This multi-disciplinary viewpoint has raised a series of questions about the established historiography of English RE. During the 1960s and 1970s, a new chapter in the history of English Religious Education began. Christian Confessionalism, whereby children were nurtured in and encouraged to adopt the Christian faith, was swept aside (Barnes 2006). It was replaced by a phenomenological (multi-faith) approach, which enabled ‘students both to gain an authentic understanding of religion and develop the virtue of tolerance’ (School Council WP 36, 1971). These developments have been widely promulgated and discussed. There is a wealth of historical analysis undertaken through the lenses of pedagogy, curriculum theory and policy (Bates 1996; Barnes & Wright 2006; Copley 2008), however through narrative reconstructions of the past, the established historiography focuses on the theories of 'a few great men'. Consequentially it suffers from a lack of analysis of the contribution of these characters to the wider discourses and intellectual contexts. In particular a robust theological analysis is lacking (Copley 2008; Teece 2010; Freathy & Parker 2010), thus the existing narrative lacks any significant ecumenical analysis. This has allowed an oversimplified narrative to gain wide acceptance and to influence the development of Religious Education. My doctoral project sets out to address this highlighted lack of ecumenical contextualisation in the construction of the historiography of English RE. Working within a post-structural framework, and drawing on the interpretational frameworks of Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser 1971) and Civil Enculturation (Schiffauer et al 2004), I am using carefully selected primary source materials relating to key ecumenical organisations involved in the development of English RE, especially but not exclusively between 1944 and 1988, to examine the relationship between national and international developments in ecumenical theology during the 1960s and 1970s, and the development of multi-faith Religious Education in England. I am seeking particularly to analyse the influence of inter-faith discussion upon English Religious Education by focusing on the relationship between the theological development and legitimisation of inter-religious dialogue and practice, exemplified in the Roman Catholic Church (Nostra Aetate 1965) and the World Council of Churches (Addis Ababa 1971), and the educational development of 'World Religions teaching' as a replacement for Christian confessionalism.

Supervisory Team

Dr Rob Freathy and Dr Deborah Osberg

Wider Research Interests

I have a diverse research background covering agriculture, theology and education and therefore have accrued a comprehensive grounding in a wide spectrum of research methodologies, with particular interests in post-structural approaches in historical inquiry and in educational research. I also have extensive classroom based experience, particularly in the use of video and audio capture techniques. Through the variety of historical projects that I have worked on, I have been able to develop effective strategies and techniques to maximise opportunities presented by historical archives. A current small scale project examining construction of gender from a historical perspective is confirming the application of these techniques beyond the confines of my doctoral work. Additionally, I am currently involved in an oral history project which is further widening my methodological skills. I am keen to develop the support and education of other researchers, and have been involved in various projects to deepen engagement amongst research students and widen their knowledge of different approaches to research. I have acted as an informal peer-mentor to a number of students undertaking masters level research and have been involved in the organisation of a number of local conferences, acted as a student representative on the College Staff-Student Liaison Committee for Masters and Doctoral students, and am currently a student representative for ESRC funded students from Exeter on the South-West Doctoral Training College's Academic Advisory Board. In addition I have led an initiative to setup a Postgraduate Cafe providing a social setting in which postgraduate researchers can meet to discuss their work, discuss the school's research seminars, and network with others. I have recently been appointed as co-editor of History of Education Researcher, together with Dr Rob Freathy.