Jaina Studies at SOAS

By |March 13, 2015|1990s, SOAS in the world|20 comments

This week, Dr Peter Flugel, Reader in the Study of Religions, talks about the journey of the study of Jainism, and how SOAS has played a key role in the development of this field of study.   

Research in Jainism has a long tradition at SOAS. It is associated with eminent Indologists such as A.L. Basham, D. Derrett, P.S. Jaini, R. Williams and J.C. Wright, who during their spells at SOAS published extensively in the field of Jaina studies. Yet, until recently, Jainism was never taught at SOAS nor anywhere else outside India. Interested students had to turn to general courses on Indic religions or advanced classes in Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Hindi or Gujarati to gain a glimpse of the rich Jain cultural tradition.[1] This unsatisfactory situation began to be redressed in 1999 when Jaina Studies was launched as an independent field of inquiry in the newly formed Department of the Study of Religions. The initiative was inspired by the late Dr Julia Leslie (1948–2004) and rendered viable through seed funding from the Jain Academy (a Jain community organization in London) for the teaching of two courses on Jainism. For some time, Julia Leslie had invited visiting Jain samaṇīs and samaṇs (neophyte nuns and monks) to give guest lectures to her classes on Hinduism (sic) and nurtured relationships with the growing Jain communities in London.

Attendees of the 16th Jaina Studies Workshop at SOAS: Jaina Hagiography and Biography, 21 March 2014

At the time, Jaina studies were still in the early stages of their transformation from a purely philological and archaeological endeavour to the multidisciplinary exploration of a lived religious tradition, which it is now. The changes were triggered by a series of field studies in the 1980s and 1990s, which contributed not only to Indology and comparative religion but also to anthropology, art history, history, linguistics, and to cross-disciplinary fields such as gender studies and diaspora studies. The new focus on contemporary Jainism also injected a breath of fresh air into the then stagnant and inaccessible academic sub-discipline, Jainology and Prakrit studies, and attracted a new generation of students to the then largely unexplored but now rapidly developing multidisciplinary field of Jaina studies.

Scholars at the University of Cambridge played a central role in these new developments, together with their counterparts at the Divinity School at Harvard and the CNRS in Paris. Despite the brilliance of the pioneering research, these efforts had no lasting structural effects on the field as a whole, which remains fragmented and discontinuous due to the lack of an institutional base.

19th century Image of an apsarāḥ, Śāntinātha Jaina Mandira, Cūru/Rajasthan (Photo: P.F. 2014)

From 1999 onwards SOAS took the lead in the field through infrastructural innovations that culminated in the establishment of the Centre of Jaina Studies in 2004. This centre offers, for the first time, the prospect of a stable anchor and forum for the global network of Jain scholars collaboratively to develop Jaina studies as an independent interdisciplinary field of inquiry. The initiatives were financed almost entirely through successful bids for competitive research grants, notably the AHRB/AHRC funded projects on Jaina law and the Jaina community in India and Britain, Jaina Rituals of Death, and the Leverhulme Trust funded project on Johannes Klatt’s Jaina Onomasticon. This reflects not only the quality of the applications but also the growing academic and public interest in Jainism, which is one of the least studied of the ancient Indian religions.

Highly specialized fields in the arts and humanities such as Jaina studies can survive in the current economic climate only if previously isolated researchers create regional and global networks to strengthen their voice and to bid collaboratively for research funds. At present, SOAS is one of the best placed institutions, maybe the only one outside India, to turn this strategic necessity into sustainable reality without further infrastructural investments.

This fact is widely recognized, both in academic circles and within the global Jain community. Within a short period of time SOAS became one of the most important venues for Jaina studies in the world, due to its international Annual Jaina Studies Workshop, now a fixture in the academic calendar, and its three specialised publications: Jaina Studies – Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies, International Journal for Jaina Studies (Online & Print), and the monograph series Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies.The CoJS now functions as a central node for multiple collaborations with scholars in Britain and North America and within the European Network of Jaina Studies, which was established at SOAS in November 2004, with the Society for Jaina Studies in Kyoto and a great number of universities and Jain research centres in India, such as the American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurgaon, the P.V. Institute in Varanasi, the L.D. Institute in Ahmedabad, the Jain Vishva Bharati Institute in Ladnun, and the B.L. Institute in Delhi. Jain scholars and members of general public with an interest in Jainism from all over the world drift naturally towards SOAS as a gateway to the unique and vast resources in the museums, archives and libraries of London.

Painting of a Mūrtipūjaka Śvetāmbara yati or lay-person in white clothes with shoes, a book and a walking stick and a Sthānakavāsī Śvetāmbara monk India, 19th century; Watercolour with gouache, 10 x 22.7 cm; Iconographic Collection Wellcome Library no. 576315i © Wellcome Library, London

Yet, the recent successes of SOAS in the field of Jaina studies would not have been possible without the local presence and the global connections of the London Jain community, which is the largest outside India and strongly supportive of the Centre of Jaina Studies. It is a paradigmatic example of how links between academic institutions and religious communities can stimulate interest in the study and research of small but significant academic fields of study that are endangered by changing policies of government funding.


[1] On history of Prakrit scholarship at SOAS, see Renate Söhnen-Thieme, ‘New Prakrit Courses at SOAS,’ Jaina Studies –Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies 3 (2008) 48: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/5645/1/NewPrakritCourseAtSOAS.pdf; Peter Flügel, ‘Pioneer of Jaina Studies at SOAS: Robert Hamilton Blair Williams (1915-1975).’ Jaina Studies – Centre of Jaina Studies Newsletter 9 (2014) 22-26: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/18285/

Can you provide a piece of SOAS history? Whether you completed your PhD here, were one of the first students to study a particular discipline or have seen the School evolve over the years, submit your story to timeline@soas.ac.uk to be featured on this blog.

Share this Post:

20 Comments

  1. Hey 🙂 Just between, are some totally uncorelated websites blogs to ours, however, they are ultimate worth checking out. Super! Great this typography carry on as usual.

  2. You’re so cool! I do not believe I’ve truly read through a single thing like this before. So good to find somebody with a few original thoughts on this issue. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality.

    마사지

  3. Hi there! I just want to offer you a huge thumbs up for the great information you have here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your website for more soon.

    외국인출장

  4. This website is really a walk-through for every one of the details you wanted concerning this and also didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse right here, and also you’ll absolutely uncover it.

    my web page ➥ 오피

  5. I’m satisfied, I must claim. Truly seldom do I run into a blog that?s both educative as well as enjoyable, and let me tell you, you have struck the nail on the head. Your concept is impressive; the issue is something that inadequate individuals are speaking smartly about. I am very happy that I came across this in my search for something relating to this.

    Please Visit My homepage ➤ 야설

  6. Can I simply say what a reduction to find somebody who really knows what theyre speaking about on the internet. You positively know the way to bring an issue to mild and make it important. More individuals have to learn this and perceive this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more in style because you positively have the gift. Have you considered promoting your blog? add it to SEO Directory right now 🙂 http://www.links.m106.com

  7. I’d come to recognize with you one this subject. Which is not something I typically do! I love reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  8. Fairly insightful submit. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a great deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and you’re the only 1 that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up

  9. This is such a terrific resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing web sites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It?s the old what goes around comes around routine. Yours truly.

  10. Have you ever considered having a website online? Many people have thought of it and then taken the large step to create one. Youll do that too. In the development you do, it could be very important believe having the right kind host to your site. You are going to also need person who has the type of device that you just want to utilize. Internet sites can be for private use as neatly ones the place you wish to make money. Folks in addition to businesses have websites. The decisions are nearly endless. That is the good looks of the internet. Its conceivable youll wish to believe the usage of mambo webhosting, drupal webhosting, joomla web hosting, or WordPress internet hosting on your website. Those are excellent puts to begin your research.

  11. Your artical is very simple however , retains a little elegance together with grace. And with all the options along with customization you could have enabled, I’m sure it would appeal to a lot bloggers. It’s really commendable that you are interested in let people, the end users, to employ a wide selection of themes for the blogs. Keep these people coming! http://www.Webmaster.m106.com Add

  12. This web page is mostly a walk-by for all of the data you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse right here, and you’ll undoubtedly uncover it…

  13. Resources these as the one you mentioned here will be incredibly useful to myself! Ill publish a hyperlink to this web page on my individual blog. Im positive my site visitors will come across that quite advantageous.

  14. You made some nice points there. I did a search on the subject matter and found most individuals will go along with with your blog.

  15. This in fact is my very first time i go to here. I found so numerous entertaining stuff in your site, in particular its argument. In the lots of testimonials in your writing, I guess I’m not the only one going through all the leisure here! Keep up the very good work.

  16. Youre able to entirely see your determination within the do the job you are writing. Worldwide hopes for a lot more ardent freelancers like your story which will not be fearful to suggest the way they think that. Normally follow your own middle..

  17. This is very fascinating, Youre a very professional blogger. Ive joined your rss feed and look ahead to in quest of more of your excellent post. Additionally, Ive shared your website in my social networks!

  18. When I open up your RSS feed it looks like a ton of weird text, is the malfunction on my end?

  19. Finally you have the slicing age info to generate YouTube hits yourself. This tutorial is designed to introduce you to the Art and science of creating more YouTube views at will. I think with a tiny little details about how YouTube works and less than little effort, you can lay aside yourself from procuring YouTube views forever.

  20. bonjour I appreciated, your noteworthy,site

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

*
*