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Religious Studies in Atlantic Canada: A State-Of-The-Art Review

By Paul W. R. Bowlby; Tom Faulkner | Go to book overview

Preface

This state-of-the-art review of religious studies in Atlantic Canada is part of a national review that began in 1982. Harold Coward, now at the Centre for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, put together a plan to review the study of religion in the various regions of the country. To date, the studies of Alberta, 1 Quebec, 2 Ontario, 3 Manitoba and Saskatchewan 4 and British Columbia 5 have been published. With the completion of the Atlantic Canada review, the national project is finally finished.

The Atlantic region includes Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The study is exclusively about the current departments of religious studies or comparative religion in the faculties of arts of the region's numerous universities. While this is a regional study, it is essential to point out that the four provinces do not see themselves as a region, preferring to emphasize the cultural and religious diversity that has made each the primary focus of its citizens' loyalty. The primacy of the provincial leads to a certain grumpiness when the four provinces are forced to be viewed as a single entity. As usual in Canada, however, economic forces, efficiency or national perceptions of the outsider lead to arbitrary groupings. In what follows we shall be looking at the academic study of religions in the degreegranting institutions of higher learning in the four provinces. As we proceed our goal is to respect the uniqueness of individual departments and their place in their respective institutional and provincial settings, while identifying and evaluating common patterns in religious studies across the region.

Universities in each of the four provinces are, in company with fellow institutions across the country, undergoing severe stresses that impact on the study of religions and its departmental infrastructure. The triple forces of diminishing university budgets, increasing enrolments and faculty cutbacks are manifestly at work. Acadia University's Department of Comparative Religion has been closed. The program at the Université de Moncton has been reduced from three full-time faculty to two, with no major. More recently, Mount Saint Vincent University has seen its full-time faculty complement reduced to one from the three who were there in 1995. In 1999, St. Francis Xavier saw its full-time faculty complement reduced from five to four and one-third. With that reduction the department lost a position specializing in

-vii-

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