SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

The Life and Work of Simon E. Digby

Simon Digby

The late Simon Everard Digby (1932–2010) was a renowned scholar of South Asia and is remembered for making significant contributions to many aspects of its study. Although his interests were extraordinarily diverse, Simon Digby was always able to skilfully draw out from a bewildering array of primary sources the hidden stories and complex patterns that enliven the real of ideas, beliefs, words, and personalities.

His attentiveness to social patterning famously informed his studies of Sufis and Jogis, whose lives and activities he situated in the concrete political arrangements of their day. However, his sensitivity to the nuances of mystical experience was tempered by an antinomian stance that did not take religious, intellectual, or political authority for granted.

It is this amalgam of radical scepticism, humour, and hard-edged focus on tangible evidence that helped to redefine the fields of historical, literary, religious, and artistic enquiry. His close concentration on the physical remains of earlier times, combined with an acute knowledge of the conceptual, normative, geographical, and human terrain that defined their context, was additionally informed by his own extensive wanderings throughout South Asia.

Simon Digby was an alumnus of SOAS and studied towards a PhD in the Department of History. The Simon Digby Memorial Charity was established in his memory, and aims to promote the study of those subjects in which he was interested. The Charity's generous donation to SOAS in 2013 has funded a post-doctoral position, currently held by Dr David Lunn. who is examining the published and unpublished works and notes of Simon Digby with a view to bringing out a collected works series, in order to make available the extraordinary products of Simon's lifetime of scholarship. The Charity's bequest also funded a memorial conference which was held at SOAS in June 2014—the proceedings of which will also be published in due course.

Further updates on the progress of this work will appear in due course. For more information, please contact Dr David Lunn, dl24@soas.ac.uk. The supervision of this project is being undertaken by Professor Francesca Orsini, in close liaison with the Trustees of the SDMC.