Professor Richard King

Key information

School of History, Religions and Philosophies Department of Religions and Philosophies Professor of Global Philosophy School of History, Religions and Philosophies Department of Religions and Philosophies Director of Doctoral Studies
BA (Hull), PhD (Lancaster)
SOAS, Main Building
Email address
Support hours
Tuesdays 2:00pm - 3:00pm (in person meetings), or via zoom


My research explores the intersection between what we call philosophy and mysticism/spirituality and the ways in which European colonialism has influenced (and continues to influence) modern interpretations of ancient Indian traditions. I am a philosopher and historian of ideas by inclination with a particular interest in non-dualistic philosophies such as Advaita Vedanta and early Indian Mahayana and the impact of colonialism on the study of Indian traditions.

After receiving a first-class BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Hull, I completed a PhD in the Religious Studies department at the University of Lancaster (1993). I have worked in a number of different universities during my career, including Stirling, Derby, Vanderbilt (USA), Glasgow and Kent. I joined SOAS as Professor of Global Philosophy in 2022.

Key publications

  • Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, SUNY Press, 1995
  • Orientalism and Religion, Postcolonial theory, India and “the Mystic East”, Routledge, 1999
  • Indian Philosophy. An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought, Edinburgh University Press, 2000
  • Selling Spirituality. The Silent Takeover of Religion, Jeremy Carrette and Richard King, Routledge, 2005
  • RELIGION/THEORY/CRITIQUE: Classic and Contemporary Approaches and Methodologies, Columbia University Press, 2017 (ed.)

Research interests

Beyond my interest in non-dualistic philosophies of India, I have a general interest in theory and method questions in the comparative study of philosophy and religion (see King (2017), Religion/Theory/Critique, Columbia University Press) and the impact of colonialism on modern representations of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  Much of my work involves questioning the usefulness of the category of religion as a cross-cultural variable, especially when examining the history of South Asian traditions. I have written about Orientalism, colonialism and the modern formation of the category of Hinduism, and have a particular interest in postcolonial theory and the challenges involved in seeking to decolonise, globalise and expand philosophy beyond its western horizons (see Orientalism and Religion, 1999, and Indian Philosophy, 2000). I have also written on the impact of neoliberal capitalism on the emergence of new forms of Asian-inspired “spiritualities” in the contemporary period (see Selling Spirituality, Carrette and King, Routledge, 2005). 

  • From 2007 to 2009 I served on the advisory committee to the Guggenheim Museum in New York for 'The Third Mind’, a major exhibition exploring Asian philosophical influences on modern American art and also served as co-chair of the Cultural History for the Study of Religion group for the American Academy of Religion. 
  • My current research work explores apophatic discourse in Mahayana Buddhist and Vedantic literature and the ways in which these traditions have been excluded from the history of philosophy through their classification as forms of “mysticism”. I am also working on an updated and revised second edition of Selling Spirituality (2005). 

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Jens Augspurger The Politics of Spiritual Tourism: Kinship Romanticism and Correspondence with Imagined Homeland (Working title)

Contact Richard