Home » SWEDISH UNIVERSITIES ENGAGED IN SOUTH ASIA RESEARCH 2015 » Uppsala University, 2015 » History of Religions, Faculty of Theology; Uppsala University, 2015

History of Religions, Faculty of Theology; Uppsala University, 2015

Postal adress: Box 511, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Visiting address: Engelska parken, Humanistiskt centrum, Thunbergsvägen 3 B
Web page: http://www.teol.uu.se/

Contact person: Professor Eva Hellman, phone: (0)18 471 2694

South Asia related research at department

Professor Eva Hellman has been especially focused on Modern Hinduism, and its relation to Politics as well as Gender. She has done research on Political Hinduism, as well as Hindu Goddesses and Women (in 1998 she published a book in Swedish on this issue: ”Hinduiska gudinnor och kvinnor” (Bokförlaget Nya Doxa).

Later she has mainly been devoted to teaching South Asian religions at her own department, as well as on the Master’s Programme in South Asian Studies at Uppsala University. She has also taught South Asian Religions at the School of Humanities and Media Studies, Högskolan Dalarna, Campus Falun.

Dr. Hellman was involved in a research project titled Gender and religious activism in South Asia: A study of Christian, Hindu and Muslim women’s organisation, a project carried out in collaboration with Dr Sidsel Hansson, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies (ACE), Lund University. It aimed at examining the role of religion in a selection of women’s organisations in South Asia. The project was given a planning grant from SASNET in the Spring 2001, and a grant for continued networking in the Fall 2001. See the full list of planning grants distributed by SASNET.

From the Fall 2010 till May 2014, Dr. Ferdinando Sardella worked as a post-doc at the department. Before that, he came from the Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion, Gothenburg University, where he defended his doctoral dissertation on ”Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. The Context and Significance of a Modern Hindu Personalist” in February 2010. More information.
From 1 June 2014, Dr. Sardella is working at the Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies at Stockholm University, where he begins a new chapter as an Associate Professor in History of Religions. 
The doctoral dissertation about the life and work of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was given the 2010 Donner Institute Award for Eminent Research in Religious and Cultural History. The Donner Institute is a private research institute under the auspices of the Foundation for Åbo Akademi University in Finland, and the award is given for Dr. Sardella’s doctoral thesis. The award ceremony took place in Åbo (Turku) during an international conference entitled ”Religion and the Body”, organised by the Donner Institute.
Dr. Sardella is also affiliated to the Department of Sociology at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, under the supervision of Professor Ruby Sain. (The contact with Jadavpur University was mediated through the services of Lars Eklund and Staffan Lindberg of SASNET during their academic tour of South Asia in December 2005. Read their report from meetings at Jadavpur University).
He also spent four months in spring 2008 at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies through a scholarship by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education.

On 26 May 2011, Dr. Sardella was awarded a scholarship for two years by the Swedish Research Council to continue his work as a post-doc on a new research project on modern Hinduism and globalization. The project was entitled ”Hinduism and Globalisation: A Return Journey” and is done in collaboration with Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India.
Project abstract: India is set to become a leading political and economic power in the world, and its various ties with Sweden are becoming increasingly important. A key to successful East-West cooperation lies in European knowledge of the dynamics of Indian cultural and religious life, and in terms of this, Vaishnavism remains the leading religious culture of Hindu India. Interestingly, an important element of Vaishnava culture concerns the mutual influence of Indians and Europeans through the migration and transformation of religious movements. The primary purpose of this project is to explore through archive sources and interviews the growth of a modern Hindu movement in Sweden known as the Gaudiya Math with particular focus on Stockholm, where it is well represented, but insufficiently explored. A secondary purpose is to investigate the impact of the movement in the area in West Bengal as it returned there. The Gaudiya Math is an institution created in Bengal in 1918 by the revivalist Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati (1874-1934). Bhaktisiddhanta launched a mission to London in 1933, and since the 1970s global offshoots of the Gaudiya Math have reached Sweden among the Hindu diaspora and local populations. One of those movements is popularly known as the Hare Krishnas. The study of a Vaishnava movement is relevant for another reason. Modern Hinduism has almost universally being identified with monism (the oneness of ultimate reality and self), which has had a significant impact on the New Age movement. This outcome has obscured currents such as the Gaudiya Math that focus on the ultimate difference between god and self. The study contributes to a more balanced knowledge of global Hinduism’s multiple forms.

During the academic year 2011/12, Dr. Sardella spent most of his time in Dhaka, Bangladesh, studying the Bengali language.

Till 31 December 2011, Peter Schalk was the Chair Professor of History of Religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. He is now retired, but keeps on his research interests. He has been engaged in Tamil Studies since the 1970s, and started his field work in Sri Lanka in 1970. He witnessed the founding of Yalppanam University in 1974, and was closely connected to the exchange programme between Uppsala University and the University of Yalppanam (Jaffna) in Sri Lanka. This exchange programme was introduced in 1979 after the two VC’s of the two universities signed an agreement of exchange. Due to the civil war the intensity decreased in the late 1990s, but it was again resumed after the ceasefire agreement in 2001. Several researchers and also the chief librarian of Yalppanam University have visited Uppsala since that.
On 24 November 2010, Peter Schalk participated in a seminar on ”Sri Lanka after the War” in Lund. There he talked about ”Defeated but Defiant. The Ilamtamil Resistance Movement after May 2009”. The seminar was co-organised by SASNET and the Association of Foreign Affairs at Lund University (UPF). See the poster for the seminar.
More information on Peter Schalk’s research and publications.

Dr. Amirthalingam Selliah defended his doctoral dissertation on ”Murukak katavul valipatu. A Study of the Worship of God Murukan in Malaiyakam on Ilam and in Tamilakam” at the department on 8 December 2003. He was supervised by Peter Schalk. The faculty opponent was Professor S Pathmanathan from Peradeniya University, Sri Lanka. The thesis highlights the act of worship of Murukak katavul, as it is continuously practiced and developed as Tamil heritage in Sri Lanka, in a historical context of the European colonial plantation economic system on on one hand, and, in the context of traditional Sinhalese Theravada Buddhism, as well as Christianity, Islam, and, not least, the religion of Veddas – that is, the prevalence of a common myth of Murukan and Valli tradition among the earliest inhabitants of Ilankai – on the other. More information.