SOAS University of London

British Academy elects four SOAS scholars for outstanding research

17 July 2015

Four SOAS, University of London scholars have been elected Fellows of the British Academy for 2014/15.

This is the highest number of SOAS academics awarded in one year, bringing the total number Fellows of the British Academy who are full-time academic staff at SOAS to eight.

The British Academy is the UK’s national body which champions and supports the humanities and social sciences elects up to 42 outstanding UK-based scholars each year. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement in the humanities and social sciences throughout the UK and internationally.

The scholars, recognised from their outstanding research, are Almut Hintze, Zartoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism; Andrew Gerstle, Professor of Japanese Studies; Richard Widdess, Professor of Musicology and Jonardon Ganeri, Professorial Research Associate, Department of the Study of Religions.

Professor Hintze’s research focuses on Indo-Iranian philology and Zoroastrian literature and religion. She is currently working on a critical edition and translation of the Avestan and Pahlavi Yasna, the core ritual of the Zoroastrians. Professor Hintze was also the co-curator of The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination exhibition, and most recently, she was teaching ‘An Introduction to the Avestan Language’ in Pune, India this summer.

Professor Gerstle’s work focuses on Japanese traditional theatre, literature and the visual arts. He has co-curated two exhibitions at the British Museum. The first was on Kabuki theatre in 2005, which traveled on to two venues in Japan. In 2013 he then co-curated the most comprehensive exhibition to date on Japanese traditional erotic art and literature, known as shunga in Japanese. The exhibition ‘Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art’ took place at the British Museum. A shunga exhibition based on the British Museum show will be held in Tokyo this autumn 2015, the first time ever for a major exhibition on shunga in Japan.

In the field of South Asian music, Professor Richard Widdess’s research began by examining the remote past, specifically the earliest documentary evidence for the art and theory of melody in India, and for the origins and development of rāga, the most important and distinctive contribution of Indian culture to music. He has also studied the dhrupad genre of North Indian vocal art-music as well as the music of the Newar community in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

Professor Ganeri’s work revolves around the discovery of new ways to inherit the Sanskrit philosophical tradition. His research interests are in cross-cultural philosophy of mind, the history of ideas in early modern South Asia, the polycentricity of modernity, and cosmopolitanism. He is an editor of the Mimesis book series on World Philosophies, and South Asia subject-editor for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Director of SOAS Professor Paul Webley said: “Having four of our academics elected all at one time is outstanding. I would like to congratulate the new Fellows of the British Academy - their world-class research and contribution to scholarship truly deserves this recognition.”

Lord Stern, President of the British Academy, said: “This year we have the honour of once again welcoming the finest researchers and scholars into our Fellowship. Elected from across the UK and world for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences, they represent an unrivalled resource of expertise and knowledge.

"Our Fellows play a vital role in the work of the Academy; encouraging younger researchers, engaging in public discussion of the great issues and ideas of our time, and contributing to policy reports. Their collective work and expertise are testament to why research in the humanities and social sciences is vital for our understanding of the world and humanity.”

The SOAS academics join just over 1,000 scholars who have been honoured as Fellows of the British Academy.