Our institute has had the honour of having here Suganya Anandakichenin as guest researcher. I even managed to convince her to discuss about her research in a short interview. Enjoy her remarks on collaborative projects and on devotional literature!
Some readers have surely already noted this series of podcasts on Indian philosophy, by Peter Adamson (the historian of Islamic philosophy and Neoplatonism who hosts the series “History of philosophy without any gaps” —which I can not but highly praise and recommend, and which saved me from boredom while collating manuscripts) and Jonardon Ganeri.
The series has several interesting points, among which surely the fact of proposing a new historical paradigm (interested readers may know already the volume edited by Eli Franco on other attempts of periodization of Indian philosophy, see here for my review). They explicitly avoid applying periodizations inherited from European civilisations, and consequently do not speak of “Classical” or “Medieval” Indian philosophy. What do readers think of this idea? And of the podcast in general?
I have myself a few objections (which I signalled in the comment section of each podcast), but am overall very happy that someone is taking Indian philosophy seriously enough while at the same time making it also accessible to lay listeners. In this sense, I cannot but hope that Peter and Jonardon’s attempts are successful.
The series includes also interviews to scholars: Brian Black on the Upaniṣads, Rupert Gethin on Buddhism, Jessica Frazier on “Hinduism” (the quotation marks are mine only), myself on Mīmāṃsā. Further interviews are forthcoming. Criticisms and comments are welcome! (but please avoid commenting on my pronunciation mistakes.)
Shilpa Sumant has been so nice to come to Vienna for two lectures and for some additional hours of chatting. For the ones among you who have not yet encountered her work, Shilpa has published important studies and critical editions in the field of the Paippalāda school of the Atharvaveda, but her command of Sanskrit and her activity at the Pune “Encyclopedic Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles” makes her approach broad and particularly rich in cross-references and unheard-of materials.
Q1 EF: In this second part of our chat, we will focus on career. How did your scholarly career start?
CB: I started by focusing on Indo-European studies and, consequently, learnt Sanskrit, Armenian… and Sogdian, which immediately interested me most [see Q2 of part 1].
I met Chiara Barbati long ago in Italy, because we studied at the same University (“Sapienza” University of Rome), but it is only once we had both moved to Vienna that we became friends. She is now a researcher at the Institute of Iranian Studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and works on Sogdian, which is probably well-known to many of us because of the many Buddhist texts being translated from Sanskrit (or, in a less amount, from Chinese) into Sogdian. All the others will be perhaps surprised to know that Sogdian exists (almost) only as a corpus of translations, from Syriac (in the case of Christian texts), from Sanskrit (Buddhist texts) or from Middle Persian (Manichean texts).
I should have met Stephan Kloos because we both work at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, but in fact we met at a common friend’s party and only later realised we had seen each other quite often before in the Academy. After that, I started having a look at his work. Departing from his wonderful website, all his work is dedicated to the anthropology of Tibetan medicine, especially of Tibetan medicine in exile. Kloos 2013, for instance, investigates on how it ended up being recognised, in India, in the West and in the Tibetan community as a “medical system” and how this concept involves a strategy and the self-construction of a new “Tibetan” identity —once the Tibetan identity could no longer be determined on a geographical basis— as related to Buddhist ethics, i.e., to one’s altruistic attitude towards the others.
I met Mrinal Kaul for the first time in December 2012, when he attended the Coffee Break Meeting on textual reuse in Indian Philosophical texts. Since then, I tried to have him collaborate to many of my projects, but always failed, since he is already very busy with incredibly many others. You can read his blog here and find out something more about him on his Academia page. Once you have done this, add much more Sanskrit than you would believe, imagine a smiling, funny face and you will still have only a vague idea of him.
I came to know Gerald Kozicz because of the panel on Reuse I am organising for the EAAA conference in September 2014 together with Cristina Bignami and Julia Hegewald. We started discussing about his paper for the panel and then Gerald has been generous enough to send me and discuss per email with me many of his other articles. His papers impressed me because they were surprisingly different from my prejudices about art history. This unconventionality, both in Gerald’s research and in his career, made me desire to interview him.
Camillo Formigatti works at the Cambridge Sanskrit Manuscript Project and is the author of many wonderful virtual catalogue sheets you can read directly online here. I met him only in 2009, while working at the first Coffee Break Conference, and now I wonder how I survived before without his acumen in the analysis of manuscripts as “things” and not (only) as carrier of a meaning
Aleix Ruiz-Falqués (his blog is here) studies (in Cambridge) Pāli Grammatical Literature written in Burma. He is an engaged scholar and one who is not shy to get involved in controversies about ideas. You can read the first part of this interview here. This time I will be asking him more general (and more provocative) questions.
EF: In some of your posts (see here and here), you seem to be quite sceptical about Anthropology as applied to Buddhism (i.e., you seem to share the textual-based approach you described in the first part of your interview). You also exhibited some scepticism concerning comparative philosophy and comparatism in general. How do you see interactions with people outside your field? Are they still possible, these premisses notwithstanding?