As from the academic year 2023-2024, our department offers a new elective course in English to students enrolled in our MA program: Contemporary Asian Academic Debates, which will grant 3 CRDT.
The lecture series of the first semester will be dedicated to the theme “Animals, Humans and the Environment in Asian Studies”.
For more details about each lecture, check the Ufora page of this course.
The theme of the second semester will be “Interactions between Religious and Political Authority in East Asia: Past and Present”.
This year’s Ācārya Mahāprajña Annual Lecture will be held on Thursday 5 October, from 4:30 pm. It will take place in the Faculty Board Room (Blandijnberg 2), but will also be accessible online (see below for registration).
Our speaker Prof. Dr. Claire Maes (University of Tübingen) will discuss the age-old Jain practice of sallekhanā (a form of end-of-life fasting) in light of contemporary medical and legal frameworks.
Beyond Life’s End: Towards an Ethical Evaluation of the Jain Practice of Fasting to Death
In this lecture, I make an ethical argument to consider the Jain practice of fasting to death (known as sallekhanā) as different from suicide. To this end, I bring the Jain fast into conversation with the practice of ‘Voluntarily Stopping of Eating and Drinking’ (VSED), an end-of-life option, available in various countries for competent adults, to hasten the end of life by consciously choosing to not eat and drink. From a medical and legal point of view sallekhanā can be considered a form of VSED. Although differing in terms of intent and historical context, the two practices are similar insofar that they relate to capable and sound individuals who voluntarily forego food and water until death. Showing the critical similarity between VSED and sallekhanā, I argue that the grounds put forward by major medical associations and legal societies to differentiate VSED from suicide are equally applicable to the case of sallekhanā. I contend that the Jain fast needs to be disentangled from the concept of suicide based on the quality of intent, but also because the process is, in theory and for some time at least, reversible, supported by loved ones and members of the larger Jain community, and dependent on the individual’s continuous and prolonged will of renouncing food and water. I also show how medical and legal authorities defend an individual’s right to VSED based on the principles of self-determination, bodily integrity, self-ownership, and respect for persons. I put forward the view to take these ethical principles into account to legally protect a Jain’s right to take the vow of sallekhanā.
Claire Maes studied Indian Languages and Cultures at Ghent University, Belgium, and Indian Philosophy at the University of Mysore in India. She earned her Ph.D. degree in 2015 from Ghent University with a dissertation that examines the influence of Jain thought and practice on the Buddhist monastic community in early India. Soon after, she joined the University of Texas at Austin where she worked for several years at the Asian Studies Department, first as a postdoctoral fellow of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies, and subsequently as a Sanskrit lecturer. Since September 2021, she is an assistant professor at the Department of Indology at the University of Tübingen, Germany. Her principal research topics are the Jain understandings of what constitutes a good death and the development of the Buddhist monastic community in ancient India.
In August 2023, Prof. Eva De Clercq, Prof. Tine Vekemans, and our program manager Inge Claerhout travelled to India to define potential collaborations between our Department of Languages and Cultures and new partner institutes in India: Manipal University (MAHE) near Udupi in Karnataka, Somaiya University in Mumbai, FLAME University in Pune, and IIT Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
New opportunities for trainings and exchange programs coming soon!
On 22 June our colleague Aaricia Ponnet successfully defended her PhD with a dissertation titled “Climbing the language tree: multiple case studies on the acquisition of Hindi as a Foreign language”, a groundbreaking study on foreign language learners of Hindi in Europe. Aaricia has a background in Indian Studies and currently works at the Department of Linguistics, Ghent University. Here you can find more details about her latest work.
Our department welcomes Saarthak Singh as a new member from the academic year 2023-2024! Saarthak has been awarded an FWO postdoc junior fellowship to work on his project titled “Coexistence, conflict and calamity: entangled worlds of Hinduism and Islam in the heart of India”. Swagatam!
On 26 September 2023, Dr Vandana Saxena (Universiti Malaya, Malaysia) will give a lecture titled “Memory and Politics of Language: Songs of Indentured Tamil Women in Malayan Plantations” as part of the lecture series organised by the Cultural Memory Studies Initiative of Ghent University.
Since language is the primary medium for the production and sustenance of memory, whether personal or collective, the politics of language is inscribed in the mnemonic productions of the past. In postcolonial nations, contestations in the arena of memory are embedded within dualisms like colonial language versus indigenous languages, or the debates surrounding the issue of national language and the position of other languages vis-à-vis the national language. How does the politics of language affect and shape the arena of postcolonial memories? And what happens when it encounters the politics of gender and race? This talk will discuss the mnemonic representations of Tamil women plantation workers in British Malaya. Brought as indentured labour from India to work on Malayan rubber plantations, Tamil women plantation workers have been an important part of the colonial and postcolonial Malaysian economy and society. Yet, their histories and experiences are recounted mostly in the English language, either via archival documents of the colonial administration and the memoirs and ‘confessions’ of the British planters in Malaya, or via the accounts of the post-independence Malaysian state, where the gaps and silences of colonial accounts are filled in by state narratives. It is only recently that their own accounts of indenture have attracted attention, with the rediscovery of two volumes of plantation worker songs collected and published in the 1960s. These songs are in Tamil, and one of the reasons why they have been largely forgotten is due to the place of Tamil in Malaysia as a language of the migrant indentured labour community. These plantation songs highlight women’s experiences of migration from India, their life in the plantation, their efforts to create and preserve ‘India’ in Malaya, and their thoughts on British colonialism and anti-colonial movements. These memories, though they exist in the public arena, have been nearly forgotten given the language politics of postcolonial Malaysia as well as the marginalization of the subject on account of gender, race, and class. This talk shall discuss the songs of Tamil women plantation workers as a form of counter-memory that challenges colonial and postcolonial narratives. It shall further discuss the potential of minority-language literature to complicate and politicize colonial and national memory.
Organized by the Department of Languages and Cultures, Ghent University Organizer: Biljana Zrnic Members of the organizing committee: Imre Bangha, Richard Williams, Dhurjjati Sarma, Ishan Chakrabarti
The Department of Languages and Cultures (Ghent University) is organizing the tenth Early Hindi / Braj Bhasha Workshop. The workshop will take place from 15-25 July 2023 on Brijuni (one of the National Parks of Croatia, located near the city of Pula). Leading experts from India, Europe, and America will present and examine with the global readership early modern Hindi texts composed between the 16th and 19th centuries and discuss challenges of interpretation, variations, and other aspects of the texts. Academics and students with a solid foundation in Brajbhasha or another form of early Hindi, and familiarity with essential grammatical terminology in English or Hindi, are welcome to join.
Accommodation: Bed and breakfast rates for Rooms Karmen on Veliki Brijun: Shared double room – 54 EUR Single room – 75 EUR If you plan to come with your family members: Double room 2 + 1 (park view) – 107 EUR Double room 2 + 1 (sea view) – 119 EUR Optional dinner costs 22 EUR. Meals will be served in the hotel Neptun (situated just next to Rooms Karmen). There are other restaurants nearby. Rooms Karmen do not have WiFi. For internet access, it is advisable to use the seminar room or buy an internet SIM card. Arriving to Brijuni: 1. The nearest airport is Pula Airport, located only 13 km from Brijuni. Transfer from the Pula Airport to the hotel (and vice-versa) is free of charge. 2. Another option is to book a flight to Zagreb, then take another flight Zagreb-Pula or take a bus Zagreb-Pula at the central bus station in Zagreb (duration by bus Zagreb-Pula is ca 4 hours). Transfer from Pula central bus station to the hotel (and vice-versa) is free of charge. 3. If arriving from Italy, take a bus Trieste-Pula (duration 2 hours) or a ferry from Venice to Pula (duration ca 3 hours and 30 min). The island can be reached by the national park boat (duration 15 minutes). For hotel guests, transfer from the island to the coast (and vice-versa) is free of charge for the whole stay.