The Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia of the Austrian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1991. It is dedicated to long-term research on Asian cultures. The geographic and cultural area under consideration includes East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Central Asia. The Institute facilitates research in cultural history and the history of ideas in the disciplines Indology, Tibetology, Sinology, Japanology, Buddhist Studies, Religious Studies and Philosophy. Research at the Institute, concentrated on selected areas of focus, is grounded in primary sources in the relevant languages and avails itself of philological-historical methods enriched with accents derived from cultural studies (Kulturwissenschaften). Projects are conducted to produce editions of important primary source materials and prepare specialized dictionaries, as well as to undertake studies on historical problems in the individual fields. Research results aim to expand knowledge in the various relevant areas as well as to promote our understanding of Asian societies and cultures, which are increasingly moving into the public spotlight.

Current Research Foci

  • Sanskrit texts from Tibet: first-time editions, translations and further studies on the philosophical literature of Indian Buddhism on the basis of manuscripts preserved in Tibet
  • The history of Buddhist philosophy in South Asia, China and Tibet, especially the logico-epistemological tradition and Madhyamaka.
  • The scholarly traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, especially the early developments of Buddhist scholasticism
  • The history of South Asian religions and philosophies, with a special focus on the history of eristics, dialectics and logic, as well as the Rāmānuja School and its relation to Advaita Vedānta and Pāñcarātra
  • The history of religion in Japan, especially the historical development of Shinto and the history of research on Shinto

A short history of the Institute

1956   

The "Commission for Languages and Cultures of South and East Asia" is founded through the efforts of Erich Frauwallner. In 1970 the name is changed to "Commission for Languages and Cultures of South Asia." The publication series of the Commission contains, with few exceptions, studies on the history of Indian philosophy.

1983

Under Gerhard Oberhammer as the Commission's director, the first research fellow is employed at the Commission to work on the long-term project of a dictionary of Indian epistemology and logic.

1986

The "Research Unit for Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia" is founded, functioning in co-operation with the Commission. Initially employing two research fellows, by 1990 the number of research fellows has already become seven. East Asia is added as a regional project focus, in addition to South and Central Asia.

1991

A successful evaluation leads to the Research Unit being promoted to an Institute, the present "Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia," headed by Oberhammer. The Commission becomes an integral part of the Institute.

1998

Oberhammer retires. Ernst Steinkellner becomes director of the Institute.

2004

Through a co-operation agreement with the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), Beijing, the Institute gains access to photocopies in the CTRC's collection of Sanskrit manuscripts dating to between the eighth and fourteenth centuries.

2006

Incorporation of the Institute into the newly formed "Centre for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology," which is dissolved again in 2012. The Institute is housed in the same building as the Institutes for Iranian Studies and Social Anthropology.

2007

Helmut Krasser takes over the direction of the Institute following the retirement of Steinkellner. Steinkellner continues the supervision of his research projects as a guest research fellow. Eleven research fellows, including the director, work at the Institute.

2014

Helmut Krasser passes away after a long illness. Under his directorship, the Institute has increased to about twenty research fellows (with more than half financed through competitive third-party funding). Vincent Eltschinger heads the IKGA as interim director and is elected Corresponding Member of the Academy.

2015

Birgit Kellner takes over the direction of the Institute after having served as Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Heidelberg. Having already been elected an Academy Corresponding Member Abroad in 2014, Kellner now becomes a Corresponding Member. Vincent Eltschinger is appointed professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris.

2016

The Institute moves to Hollandstrasse 11-13 in Vienna's second district, together with six other humanities and social science institutes. Twenty-six research fellows work at the Institute (sixteen financed through competitive third-party funding).

Scientific Advisory Board

For the period 2018–2021 the members of the IKGA's scientific board advisory board are:

  • Prof. Dr. Wolfang Behr, Professor for Sinology, University of Zurich
  • Prof. Dr. Ute Hüsken, Professor for South Asian Studies, University of Heidelberg
  • Prof. Dr. Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz, Professor for Religious Studies, University of Bern
  • Prof. Dr. Marek Mejor, Professor für Buddhist Studies, University of Warsaw
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Vollmer, Professor for Japanese Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich

Academic events and collaborations

The Institute convenes symposia, workshops and conferences on a regular basis, and the Institute’s research fellows also present their research results at international conferences and institutions. In addition, longer stays abroad as well as occasional invitations of visiting scholars have resulted in a number of close collaborations. Both aspects ensure that the Institute has a stable network of international contacts. Collaborations are also conducted with scholars at the University of Vienna, where the majority of the Institute’s fellows also regularly teach, enabling them to pass on the results of their research to students.

(See also events and visiting scholars.)