Professor James Cox (PhD)

Honorary Professorial Fellow

  • School of Divinity
  • Religious Studies Subject Area

Contact details



School of Divinity, Mound Place

Post code


I have particular interests in the study of Indigenous Religions, with emphases on Africa, the Arctic and Australia and in methodologies in the academic study of religions.

My interest in approaches to the study of religions developed out of my first degree in philosophical phenomenology, but subsequently I have applied theory to practice in field studies conducted in Zimbabwe, Alaska and Australia.

I became interested in Indigenous Religions after I was appointed to a lectureship in Alaska Pacific University in 1981, and pursued this further after my appointment in the University of Zimbabwe in 1989.  While on a teaching exchange with the University of Sydney in 2009,  I conducted research on Christian interpretations of Australian Aboriginal religions.

From 1993, I directed the African Christianity Project in the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World (now the Centre for the Study of World Christianity) forging links with universities and research institutes in western and southern Africa.

In 1999, I was appointed to the Religious Studies Subject Area in the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a Personal Chair in Religious Studies in 2007.

From 1 December 2011 until 1 June 2012 I was the de Carle Distinguished Lecturer in the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand working with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.

In 2013 I was the recipient of an award under the auspices of the International Research Initiative Scheme of the University of Western Sydney to conduct research on Non-Religion among Australian Aboriginal  peoples.  Currently I am appointed Adjunct Professor in the Religion and Society Research Cluster, School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University. 

Responsibilities & affiliations

External appointments

Past President, British Association for the Study of Religions

Co-editor of the Religion in Modern Africa Series of Ashgate Publications

Co-editor of Bloomsbury's  Advances in Religious Studies Series 

Past General Secrectary of the African Association for the Study of Religions and Past Deputry General Secretary of the European  Association for the Study of Religions

Research summary

Religious Studies

Phenomenology of Religion

Indigenous Studies

Theories and Application of Research Methods among Indigenous Communities



Current research interests

I am completing a book to be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2022 entitled 'A Phenomenology of Indigenous Religions: Theory and Practice' as part of the Advances in Religious Studies Series, of which I was one of the founding editors. I have been invited as a visiting scholar to Uit, the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø to contribute to research in Indigenous Religions. My next research project explores issues surrounding 'ownership of knowledge' among Indigenous communities based on my research at the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs, Australia and as part of a consultation at the conclusion of a ten-year research project at the Center for Religious Studies, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

Past research interests

I have published widely on the phenomenology of religion and applied the principles obtained within phenomenological perspectives to my field research in Alaska, Zimbabwe and Australia. Publications that reflect this interest include: 'A Guide to the Phenomenology of Religion' (Continuum, 2006); 'From Primitive to Indigenous: The Academic Study of Indigenous Religions' (Ashgate, 2007); 'The Invention of God among Indigenous Societies' (Acumen/Routledge, 2014); 'Restoring the Chain of Memory: T.G.H. Strehlow and the Repatriation of Australian Indigenous Knowledge' (Equinox, 2018). In 2013, I conducted research with Professor Adam Possamai of Western Sydney University, which resulted in our edited volume, 'Religion and Non-Religion among Australian Aboriginal Peoples (Routledge, 2016).

Knowledge exchange

I have worked closely with the Friends of the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs, Australia, which is involved currently in a project on 'The Repatriation of Knowledge', with direct implications for the relationship between researchers and the communities on which they conduct research. I am expanding this to include an international consortium of scholars interested in 'Indigenous Knowledge: Background, Use and Ethical Responsibilities'.  This has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is hoped to resume this sometime in 2022.

Affiliated research centres