Category Archives: General

Sensible Religion? A Reflection by Dan Cohn-Sherbok

Layout 1Posted by Hattie Wilson, Senior Marketing Executive

Over the years, Ashgate has  been proud to publish important titles by celebrated authors and editors in the field of Theology. Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, editor of Sensible Religion alongside the Very Revd. Christopher Lewis, here reflects on what is required from Religion in order for it to hold personal significance. 

Several months ago I attended a retirement party for my co-editor, Christopher Lewis at Christ Church, Oxford. Christopher had been the Dean of the College, and a dinner was held in his honour. The former Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History was on our table. After dessert I told him about the book Christopher and I just published with Ashgate. ‘It’s called “Sensible Religion”‘, I said.

He leaned back in his chair and chortled. ‘That’s certainly an oxymoron.’

‘An oxymoron..?’

‘Religion isn’t sensible,’ he said. ‘It transcends ordinary experience. It’s about the supernatural. The stories in the Bible aren’t sensible. Moses parting the Red Sea; Jonah being swallowed by a whale; Jesus ascending into heaven. The 3rd century Church Father Tertullian said he believed in the resurrection because it is impossible.’

That was the end of an otherwise agreeable evening. But the Regius Professor was on the wrong track. What is needed today is not magic or fantasy or the irrational. Religion needs to make sense if it is to be relevant. It must appeal to the mind as well as the heart if it is to have significance in people’s lives.

Our book, which contains contributions from leading religious thinkers from across the world’s major traditions, explores the ways in which religion can enrich the lives of believers. The book is based on the conviction that rational, sensible and sensitive religious belief can be a major force for good in the modern world.

Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok is Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales. His co-editor Christopher Lewis is Dean of Christ Church at the University of Oxford. Sensible Religion was published by Ashgate in September 2014.

Ashgate acquired by Informa


We announce that Ashgate Publishing has been acquired by Informa, owners of the academic publishing group Taylor & Francis. Over the last 48 years Ashgate has grown to become one of the leading publishers of academic monographs and reference works under the Ashgate imprint, and Gower continues to be a highly respected brand name in business and management books. Taylor & Francis, through its Routledge imprint, is a long established publisher with an excellent reputation and a strong commitment to the academic and professional fields in which Ashgate and Gower publish. Together, Taylor & Francis with Ashgate and Gower are now the largest academic book publisher worldwide in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

With its combined resources and expertise we see this as a positive move for all our authors and the academic and professional communities we serve.

Please continue to direct enquiries to your usual Ashgate and Gower contacts. A full list of contacts can be found on the Contact Us page.

About Informa: Informa is one of the world’s leading business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events businesses, creating unique content and connectivity for customers all over the world. Taylor & Francis Group, the academic publishing division of Informa, publishes specialist academic books and journals. Taylor & Francis produce unique, trusted content by expert authors, spreading knowledge and promoting discovery globally. We aim to broaden thinking and advance understanding, providing academics and professionals with a platform to share ideas and realise their individual potential.

Sex, Gender and Society – A guest post from Ann Oakley

International Women’s Day is 104 years old, and my book, Sex, Gender and Society, is 43 years old. Both remind us that social definitions of what women can do remain restricted and oppressive; such definitions perpetuate the idea that human capabilities are always inherently limited by biology.

In 1972, when I wrote Sex, Gender and Society, there was little awareness of women’s rights, feminism had scarcely arrived (again, it had been here before!) and the term ‘gender’ in its modern usage hadn’t been invented. My modest little book went through the evidence about how societies variously define femininity and masculinity, and concluded that there’s enormous scope for all sorts of behaviours. The main limiting factor is how we think about the sexes, and how we impose on them expectations of gender. Doing the research for and writing that book was life-changing for me; I was a young academic in a field (sociology) which was intensely male-dominated and which mostly ignored women’s interests and activities. The anthropology, and psychology and medical science I scoured for the book opened my eyes to a much more inclusive world.

To my great surprise the book has enjoyed a long career on readings lists of many kinds. It is dated, of course: we know much more about sex and gender than we did then. But many of the old arguments still hang around – women are more emotional and less rational than men, they are less capable than men of physically and intellectually demanding jobs, they are more necessary in the home as child-rearers, and so on and so forth. We still need the evidence to oppose these ideas. Sex gender and society

This new edition has the original text tidied up and properly referenced, but it has not been substantially rewritten, because that would have meant a new book altogether. Sex, Gender and Society was a child of its time, a time that is not altogether in the past. A long new introduction looks at how some of the research has moved on, at some of the omissions in the original book (there was too much about heterosexuality, not enough about domestic violence). It’s still a modest little book, but the plight of women globally requires many like these to be written, read, and, most importantly, used as a basis for action.

Ann Oakley is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education, UK. The new revised edition of Ann Oakley’s Sex, Gender and Society is available in paperback, hardback and ebook formats from 5th March 2015.

Enhancing the Doctoral Experience: A Guide for Supervisors and Their International Students. Steve Hutchinson, Helen Lawrence, and Dave Filipović-Carter

This an excellent, thoughtfully-produced pragmatic guide to the very fine and complicated art of doctoral supervision across cultures, writes Casey Brienza.

This review originally appeared on the LSE Review of Books blog, and is reproduced here with permission. You can read the original post here.

Enhancing the doctoral experienceIt was with tremendous anticipation that I received Enhancing the Doctoral Experience: A Guide for Supervisors and Their International Students for review. My interests, personal and professional, in the subject are twofold: Firstly, I used to be an international student myself, and the first time I ever left my home country to study for a degree abroad was as an American undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge (which, my fellow Americans, is in England, not Massachusetts). Now, though, the shoe is on the other foot, and I hold a permanent academic post at a doctoral-granting institution in the United Kingdom, so supervising PhD students is a part of the job description. Would this book reflect truthfully upon my own experiences while shining an illuminating light upon an area of teaching for which, I am not afraid to admit, I feel woefully under-prepared for, in a system of higher education I still do not fully understand?

On the face of things, the authors of this book, Steve Hutchinson, Helen Lawrence, and Dave Filipović-Carter, do not seem to be the most ideally positioned to be writing anything authoritative on this topic. Although all three hold PhDs (in zoology, sociolinguistics, and international law, respectively), none of them supervise PhD students. However, they assert, in their careers as freelance development consultants to academics and other researchers, each has met thousands of international research students, many of whose studies were troubled by various aspects of their relationships with their doctoral supervisors. A book on the subject ought to be useful, they concluded. It would be difficult to disagree.

In fact, a modicum of distance from the day-to-day practice of doctoral supervision may have been an asset. Often, the things closest to us are the hardest to see with clarity. Drawing upon cognitive and managements theories and a diverse range of empirical data, including survey questionnaires, interviews with researchers at a range of career stages, and even, at times, just ‘asking a roomful of international research students to write a piece of advice on a sticky note for a new doctoral student from their own country,’ Enhancing the Doctoral Experience painstakingly deconstructs every conceivable aspect of interpersonal interaction between supervisor and supervisee likely to occur in the context of a British doctoral education. Applicable frameworks for relationship development and pragmatic advice for making it all work across cultures and potentially language barriers are then provided in abundance throughout.

The book is organized, roughly speaking, into thirteen chapters which can be further divided into five parts. The first introduces the UK doctorate and what makes it distinctive. The second explores international students’ motivations for wanting to do a doctorate in the UK and what they are likely to expect as a consequence. The third focuses on how to start off right and build an effective relationship with one’s student. The fourth consists of six chapters, one for each of the so-called ‘Dublin Descriptors’ of competencies that students who have completed a PhD must demonstrate at the end of their course. These chapters range widely, from advice about how to guide students through a review of the existing literature to working on public outreach and impact. The fifth and final section provides advice for preparing for the viva.

There are so many suggestions, visualizations, and practical exercises presented here about every conceivable angle of interaction between supervisor and student, at every stage of the relationship, that reading this book in one go to learn how to be a good (or better) supervisor, as I did, is probably not advisable. The amount of information might easily become overwhelming. Instead, the book’s greatest utility, in my view, is as a targeted how-to manual, to be consulted when running into trouble or, ideally, before one begins to tinker and fiddle with unfamiliar parts of the proverbial machine. The onus of effective doctoral education rests far more heavily on the shoulders of an individual supervisor in the British system than it does in some others, such as that of the United States, where it’s generally assumed to take a village—or an entire department of academic staff—to raise a PhD. There were all too many potential issues which, despite having been a UK PhD student myself, I probably would not have considered on my own as part of a supervisor’s remit.

In fact, the book’s greatest strength, its level of detail, is also its greatest weakness. Although the title does not make it explicit, it must be made absolutely clear: Enhancing the Doctoral Experience is about enhancing the doctoral experience in the UK,where doing a PhD is, with some exceptions, narrowly equated to doing an 80,000-word thesis. Thus, in spite of a wealth of material about advising international students in their writing and research, there was little, say, about advising international students about preparing for the next stage of their careers or applying for academic jobs. Not a word, even, on how to write good reference letters! I was also saddened by the authors’ seemingly unquestioned acceptance of the premise that the student would be paying hugely, either in actual cash terms, or through indirect opportunity costs, for their degree certificate and that part of the raison d’être for improving supervisory provision was providing better value for money. The authors’ default assumption seemed to be that these international students would come to the UK and then, upon receipt of their PhD, they would head back home. I speak from personal experience here: That ain’t always true.

Nevertheless, this an excellent, thoughtfully-produced pragmatic guide to the very fine and complicated art of doctoral supervision across cultures. Its focus on each and every conceivable aspect of the production of a thesis, in particular, is invaluable. I am sure that I will be returning to Enhancing the Doctoral Experience frequently in years to come for advice and tips on making the PhD process a successful and mutually beneficial endeavour. Recommended.

Casey Brienza is a sociologist and Lecturer in Publishing and Digital Media at City University London’s Department of Culture and Creative Industries. She holds a first degree from Mount Holyoke College, an MA in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University, and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral thesis, titled ‘Domesticating Manga: Japanese Comics, American Publishing, and the Transnational Production of Culture,’ and is currently being revised into a book manuscript. Casey also has refereed articles in print or forthcoming in International Journal of Cultural Policy, Journal of Popular Culture, Studies in Comics, and more. She may be reached through her website.

In memory of Sacvan Bercovitch

Posted by Ann Donahue, Publisher

In memory of the eminent scholar Sacvan Bercovitch, his friend and colleague Professor Nan Goodman at the University of Colorado offers this memoriam:

On December 9, 2014, the great Sacvan Bercovitch passed away.  Professor Bercovitch or Saki, as he was known to friends and colleagues, was a brilliant scholar of early American literature and culture. His work on Puritan rhetoric, most significantly, the jeremiad—a long complaint that simultaneously castigates and inspires its audience—has become the symbol of a strain of American literature that continues into our own day.  In addition to his work on the Puritans, Professor Bercovitch produced many works of lasting significance on nineteenth-century American authors, including Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  His intellectual generosity knew no bounds, and essays demonstrating his influence on American literary scholarship by his many grateful readers, students, and colleagues can be found in Ashgate’s 2011 volume, The Turn Around Religion: Literature, Culture, and the Work of Sacvan Bercovitch. Saki’s unusual view of American literature was born in part of his having grown up as a Canadian Jew.  As an outsider—a status he always cherished–he could see more clearly than most what the “myth of America,” as he called it, was all about.  Friends and colleagues mourn the loss not only of a critical genius, but of a kind and compassionate man.

Helping to support Project Luangwa in Zambia

Eleanor HillThe Estelle Trust is a small charitable fund which works with others on schemes to improve education, health and governance in Africa and runs a small number of its own projects in Zambia. Ashgate donates a proportion of its profits to the Trust each year, and Ashgate staff members are also involved in supporting the Estelle Trust through various fund raising activities. Recently, Eleanor Hill, Ashgate’s e-books Administrator, went one step further. She spent a week with Project Luangwa in Zambia, helping them with database design for their child sponsorship and building project management. This is her account of her visit.

The Estelle Trust has close links with Project Luangwa in Zambia. The Trust funded the building of a library for Mfuwe Secondary School which is now built and stocked with books but not yet open pending the cataloguing of the books by a volunteer. Karen and Dave (who run Project Luangwa) are particularly delighted to be seeing this volunteer again as they know him, and know that he will do a thorough and accurate job! He will also be doing some training of both staff and students before the official opening of the library.

Mfuwe Secondary School Library

Mfuwe Secondary School Library

The purpose of my visit was to analyse and design a couple of databases to help with the administration of the Project. One will help Karen with the Sponsorship records, currently held in 134 separate spreadsheets and the other will help Dave administer his building projects and allow him to produce more accurate estimates for each new school block or teachers house they build. Having succeeded in producing the designs I will now have plenty to occupy my evenings and weekends turning the designs into working databases.

Mfuwe baboon

I had been told to expect views of wildlife across the lagoon outside the office window but hadn’t expected the wildlife to be quite so up close and personal!

I couldn’t be more impressed with the work that Karen and Dave do in providing educational opportunities for orphans in rural Zambia. AIDS is not the only killer out there and there are huge numbers of orphans who would have no hope of an education if it weren’t for the work they do. And, as if poverty were not enough of a handicap, the girls have to overcome even more obstacles to get the chance to achieve their potential, which is where the Mfuwe Secondary School Girls’ club comes into its own.  This is a wonderful group of girls all from problem backgrounds, who are determined to improve their lot. I attended their weekly meeting where they had a guest speaker – the delightfully down to earth, unshockable and entertaining local western doctor whose brief was to answer any questions the girls wanted to ask – Karen and I both learned things there too. At the end of the meeting there was great excitement as Karen had some T shirts and knickers to hand out to the girls – see below:

Mfuwe Secondary School Girls' Club

Mfuwe Secondary School Girls’ Club

If you want to find out more about the sort of lives and problems the girls can look forward to in this area do take a look at the following link

If anyone is interested in making a donation to the very worthwhile work that Karen and Dave are doing in Zambia, you can find more information here:

Not an Email Subscriber? You Should Be.

For a long time now, Ashgate has sent monthly email updates featuring the newest books paired with “also of interest” titles. Though this has always provided recipients with information about the latest and greatest of Ashgate, we felt the routine update could be bigger and better. We especially wanted to provide something of value to those receiving our regular notifications.

Starting in January, we said goodbye to our traditional monthly update and made way for the new and improved exclusive email subscriber offers.What does this mean? It means our updates now include exclusive rewards and offers open only to our email recipients as a thank you for being loyal subscribers.

“What sorts of offers can subscribers expect to receive?” you might ask. The answer: amazing discounts, access to free content, conference sneak peeks, and more. Plus, you still get all the scoop on every new book published in your subject area and never miss a new release!

So, if you’re not currently an email subscriber, you should be.

Don’t miss out on another single offer. Sign up now and become an email subscriber—the best way to get more bang for your books!

Visit to sign up and we will do the rest.