James L. Cox (elected 2015)
James L Cox has done groundbreaking work in applying the methods and perspectives of our discipline to the study of indigenous religions and in developing indigenous religions as a distinct field of study in the university. He has carried out fieldwork in such different parts of the world as Alaska and Africa and has taught the academic study of religion to students from all continents. His field research as well as his academic career, which includes teaching positions in Alaska and Zimbabwe before he eventually came to Edinburgh in 1993, gave him a unique insight into how such categories as ‘religion’ and ‘god’ are not self-evident, but are always subject to cultural interpretation and negotiation.
A strong commitment to the theoretical foundations of religious studies is witnessed by his widely used An Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion. His work to establish indigenous religions as a field of study is reflected in another important book From Primitive to Indigenous: The Academic Study of Indigenous Religions. Cultural encounters and the clash of insiders’ and outsiders’ perspectives on a religion have been a constant topic of investigation from his first book, The Impact of Christian Missions on Indigenous Cultures from 1991 to his latest publication The Invention of God in Indigenous Societies from 2014. Throughout, Jim Cox shows an impressive ability to combine thick ethnographic description with theoretical sophistication.
Professor Cox has a long record of service to the associations of our discipline. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the British Association for the Study of Religions from 1997 until 2006, first as Bulletin Editor, then as Secretary and finally as President. He was a co-founder of the African Association in 1992 and served on its Executive Committee for ten years, first as Secretary and later as General Treasurer. He has been very active in the European Association for the Study of Religions from the start, serving on numerous committees of the Association and as Deputy General Secretary between 2011 and 2014.
For his longstanding services to the field, both as a scholar and as an officer and valued collaborator in the EASR and affiliated associations, it is a great pleasure to confer on James L Cox an Honorary Membership of the EASR.