SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Research Projects

The Department of Religions and Philosophies has been very successful in securing funding for a variety of research projects. In addition, our staff are also part of national and international research collaboratives, many of which are also externally funded.

Externally Funded Research Projects at SOAS

Current Projects
  • Kānjī Svāmī: History, Teachings, Community  (Peter Flugel)The project centres upon the teachings of Kānjī Svāmī (1890-1980), a Digambara Jain lay reformer active in mid-20th century Gujarat, and has since attracted a global following with established centres in India and among diaspora communities across Australia, Belgium, Kenya, Singapore, Uganda, the UK, and the USA. The research aims to provide a detailed overview of the history, philosophy, religious practices, and organisation of this recently developed Jaina school.
  • Exploratory Survey of the Jaina Heritage in Pakistan (Peter Flugel)
    In and after 1947, almost the entire, already diminished, Jain community migrated out of newly born Pakistan leaving much of its tangible religious and cultural heritage unprotected while the legacy in form of scriptures, temples, historical monuments, archaeological sites and buried antiquity was still largely unmapped. From the partition of subcontinent till now considerable research work has been done in India to document and preserve Jain heritage while there is still no visible activity in Pakistan in this regard except a few research articles and notes here and there. The aim of the project, sponsored through a gift of Baron Dilip Mehta, is to enhance understanding of the Jain heritage in Pakistan.
  • Beyond Boundaries: Religion, Region, Language and the State (ERC, Ulrich Pagel, Nathan Hill and  Antonello Palumbo)
    Examines the cultural constitution and configuration of the centres of Gupta power; maps how Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali, the languages of political and religious discourse, came to be used across Asia; and analyses how temples, monastic organisations and landed estates first emerged as autonomous socio-economic institutions with stable endowments; Ulrich Pagel serves as consultant to the project, particularly examining the economic history of early Buddhism
  • Buddhist Ritual Embryology: Textual Evidence from Medieval Japanese Archives (British Academy-Leverhulme small grant, Lucia Dolce)
    Retrieves and analyses recently discovered material in Japanese temple archives, which present the process of generation of the human body as an accomplished Buddhist ritual practice
  • Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum (British Academy, Nicholas Sims-Williams and Almut Hintze)
    Aims to publish a comprehensive and permanent record of Iranian inscriptions and documents, including inscriptions and documents (but not literary texts) in Iranian languages, and in non-Iranian languages if they were found in Iran or are versions of texts in an Iranian language, supplementary series provides for the inclusion of relevant works
  • The eKanjur: A Fully Searchable Electronic Edition of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon (Society of South Asian Studies, Ulrich Pagel)
    Digitisation of the entire set of texts that constitute the Derge Kanjur (1733); production of a powerful electronic edition that is fully searchable both; provision of a catalogue to be used to archive modern critical editions, translations, summaries and scholarly analyses of the individual texts
  • Keeping Faith in 2030: Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals (AHRC, Jörg Haustein with Emma Tomalin, Leeds)
    This research network aims to enhance international and cross-sectional exchange about the role of religions in defining, implementing, and safeguarding sustainable development, as codified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It brings together research partners and non-academic institutions in Ethiopia, India, and the UK for a series of conferences and publications on the topic of religions and the SDGs.
  • Literary Heritage of the Aniconic Jaina Tradition (British Academy / Leverhulme Trust, Peter Flügel)
    The aim of the project, funded by British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Grant SG152131, is to collect, transliterate and publish important, yet unstudied manuscripts pertaining to the history, doctrine and religious culture of the Lonkagaccha Jaina traditions in India.
  • The Multimedia Yasna (European Research Council, Almut Hintze)
    The project examines the performance and written transmission of the core ritual of the Zoroastrian tradition, the Yasna, whose oldest parts date from the second millennium BCE.
  • Of Monks and Embryos: Buddhist Embryology and Construction of the Ritual Body in Mediaeval Japan (BA/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship, Lucia Dolce)
    Buddhist practitioners developed distinct theories on the process of generation of the human body by applying medical knowledge to the realm of religious practice. These theories constitute the rubric of Buddhist embryology. The Indian and Tibetan context of this discourse has received scholarly attention, but no sustained exploration of embryological patterns in East Asian Buddhism exists. This project seeks to fill a gap in the field with a monographic study that maps out the embryogenetic discourse in the ritual landscape of medieval Japanese Buddhism and explores the practices of the body which nurtured it.
  • Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison will deploy robust mixed-methods criminological-theological research to generate the most detailed and extensive data-set to date about the nature of Muslim converts, the types of Islam(-ism) that they follow in prisons and the effects of their practice of Islam on prison life.  We will then design a data-driven initiative to help prisoners avoid the dangers of conversion to Islam and draw upon its rehabilitive benefits.
  • Zoroastrianism in Contemporary Iran (British Academy, Sarah Stewart)
    Maps the remaining Zoroastrian communities in Iran through interviews conducted in Tehran, Yazd, Kerman, Isfahan, Shiraz and Ahwaz, in order to document and account for the changes that have occurred amongst Zoroastrians – particularly with respect to their religious lives - since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Recently Completed Projects
  • Corpus Avesticum: Digital Yasna (individual project funding, Almut Hintze)
    Research programme consisting of five externally funded subprojects (AHRC, British Academy, Felix-Scholarship, Soudavar Memorial Foundation) exploring avenues to transform digital images of Avestan manuscripts of the central ritual text of Zoroastrianism into computer-readable romanised form
  • Locating Culture, Religion and the Self (AHRC, 2008–2014 Ulrich Pagel)
    Outlines the history of the Rebkong tantric community and its relationship with the historical dominant Gelugs pa school of Tibetan Buddhism, in particular the social role of the members, many of whom resided within ordinary lay communities and were trained in much valued skills such as divination, astrology, and medicine
  • Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective, Sociology of Jaina Monastic Biography (DFG, 2012–13 Erfurt, Peter Flügel)
    Sociological study of Jaina monastic (and lay) biographies, based on vernacular texts, archival and ethnographic sources
  • Johannes Klatt’s Jaina-Onomasticon (Leverhulme Trust Research Grant, 2011–2016 Peter Flügel)
    Production of a print edition of Klatt's Jaina-Onomasticon with a historical introduction; investigation of the text as a source for the study of Jaina social and intellectual history and of the history of Oriental Studies in Europe
  • The Christian Library from Turfan (AHRC, 2008–2011, Erica Hunter)
    Catalogue of Syriac, Christian Soghdian, Christian Old Turkic, and New Persian manuscript, found at a monastery site near Bulayiq, Turfan.
  • The Transmission of Christian Texts at Turfan (AHRC, Erica Hunter)
    Continues the work completed by the Christian Library at Turfan, editing a trilingual Syriac-Sogdian-English dictionary as well as a critical edition and an annotated translation of MIK III/45
  • Tibetan in Digital Communication (AHRC, Ulrich Pagel)
    Project engaged in building a 1,000,000 syllable part-of-speech tagged corpus of Tibetan texts spanning the language's entire history, including the development of a number of digital tools that allows for the corpus to be employed in many areas of humanities research, and enables other researchers to more easily develop their own corpora or software tools

Participation in National and International Collaborative Research Projects

  • The Function of Images in Magical Papyri and Artefacts of Ritual Power from Late Antiquity (Australian Research Council, principal investigator: Jennene Johnston [Sydney]; participation Erica Hunter, with Iain Gardner [Sydney], Julia Kindt [Sydney], and Helen Whitehouse [Oxford])
    Dr. Hunter is examining the iconography of incantation bowls (7th century) from Nippur, Iraq.
  • Interactions between Rivals: the Christian Mission and Buddhist Sects in Japan during the Portuguese Presence, c.1550 – c.1647 (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, Principal Investigator Alexandra Curvelo da Silva Campos, Lucia Dolce as Researcher)
    The project aims at a comprehensive analysis of the way Southern Europeans (nanbanjin) and Japanese confronted each other, interacted and mutually experienced religious otherness, through the study of the composite cultural heritage created (mostly) in Japan by both European and Japanese.
  • Jewish Art in Its Late Antique Context (book project, Catherine Hezser and Uzi Leibner)
  • Relationships and Transformations in East Asian Religions: National Museum of Japanese History (Japanese Ministry of Culture, participation Lucia Dolce)
    The project explores the relation between Buddhism and local cultures through the analysis of historical sources and fieldworks to document current ritual practices.
  • Ueberweg – Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie (Jan-Peter Hartung with Ulrich Rudolph and Anke von Kügelgen)
    Publication project producing 4 volumes about Islamic philosophy