SOAS University of London

Leverhulme Trust grant received to fund project on history of the Jaina traditions

12 January 2022

Professor Peter Flügel, Professor in the Study of Religions and Philosophies at SOAS University of London, has received a major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust for a new project on the history of the Jaina traditions.

The use of images has been a contentious issue in the history of religions, attracting scholars of comparative religion and sociology. Though thirty percent of all Jainas belong to aniconic or non-image-venerating traditions today, textbooks on Jainism offer no detail on the schools and sects rejecting image-worship.

Professor Flügel's project The Aniconic Jaina Traditions:  History, Doctrine, Practice, will receive funds over £200k. The project proposes to close this evidence gap by making a comprehensive study of the sectarian histories, doctrines, and practices of the aniconic Loṅkāgaccha, Sthānakavāsī and Terāpanth Śvetāmbara Jaina traditions. New prosopographical methods will be applied for analysis and complexity theory introduced as a means of explaining the dynamics of sectarian differentiation and functions of aniconism in novel ways.

Professor Flügel, Chair of the Centre of Jaina Studies at School of History, Religions and Philosophies, said: “Though I have worked over 30 years on one or other aspect of the aniconic Śvetāmbara Jaina sectarian traditions, I have yet to synthesise my findings and to write about the development of the aniconic traditions as a whole. This I intend to do during this project, which will require original philological, prosopographical, and field research to round up the source base for this ambitious work.

“What I hope will emerge at the end of the three years is the first comprehensive account of the aniconic Jaina traditions in English, combining original research on the schools and sects of the Loṅkāgaccha and Sthānakavāsī traditions with a new sociological approach to the classification of Jaina schools and sects".

The grant of £211,432 provides for three years' teaching replacement from October 2022.