Ghent University has been hosting Jaina Studies since several decades. What has now become a research tradition on Jainism was initiated by the work of Jozef Deleu, who defended his doctoral thesis on Jaina narrative literature in 1957. To facilitate his research, he pursued training in the Jaina Prakrits, the Middle Indo-Aryan languages of Jaina texts, with the renowned scholars Walther Schubring and Ludwig Alsdorf at the University of Hamburg in 1959. In 1970-71 he was guest lecturer of Jainology at the University of Utrecht, and he became lecturer at Ghent University in 1971, where he taught, among other subjects, the Jaina Prakrits.
His student and successor, Frank Van Den Bossche, submitted his doctorate on Jaina metaphysics in 1993. In 1983-84 he stayed at the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute in Pune in preparation of his doctoral thesis. In 1999, he became a lecturer at Ghent University, where he researched Jaina ethics and philosophy and taught Prakrit and Sanskrit.
Today, Jaina Studies at Ghent University are spearheaded by Eva De Clercq, who completed her doctoral dissertation, supervised by Professor Van Den Bossche, on the Paümacariu, a Jaina version of the Rāmāyaṇa written by the Apabhraṃśa poet Svayambhūdeva. Having rejoined the Department of Languages and Cultures of South Asia as a lecturer in 2010, she is now further strengthening the departments focus on Jaina Studies with her research on Apabhraṃśa literature, Jaina Rāmāyaṇas and Digambara monastic history.
Tine Vekemans completed her PhD on contemporary Jainism in the diaspora under Eva’s supervision. In September 2022, she was appointed to the newly created Ācārya Mahāprajña Chair for Jain Studies. Her research focuses on Jain migration history, Jainism outside of South Asia, and Jainism and digital media, and combines ethnographic methods with textual studies and media analysis. Tine teaches classes on Jainism and on Jain texts in modern Indian languages (Gujarati and Hindi). She also takes up teaching duties relating to modern and contemporary South Asia.
Visiting professors that have further contributed to Ghent University’s expertise on Jainism have included Marie-Hélène Gorisse (Jaina epistemology and philosophy) and Heleen De Jonckheere (Jain narrative literature).
Thanks to this tradition of several decades of Jaina studies, Ghent University is now proud to have a rich collection of publications on Jainism and international contacts with scholars of Jainism. Several young researchers are currently benefiting from this ideal environment, and further contribute to the diversity of research and expertise in the vast field of Jainology.