ALC adds Śrī Anantnāth Chair dedicated to the study of Jainism

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Asian Languages and Cultures is pleased to announce the establishment of a new endowed chair dedicated to the study of Jainism, a religion started in India and now practiced by more than 4 million people worldwide. Jainism is a nontheistic religion founded in India more than 2500 years ago, and its beliefs are centered around principles of nonviolence, non-possessiveness and a pluralistic worldview.

This position was made possible by the generosity of Jasvant Modi, Bipin and Rekha Shah, Raksha and Harshad Shah, Prem Chand and Sandhya Jain, with the assistance of Dr. Sulkeh Jain, that was matched with funds donated to the UW Foundation by John and Tasha Morgridge. This group of donors has gifted close to $18 million to institutions of higher education around the world to further the study the faith, one of the oldest continuously practiced religions on the planet. UW-Madison is one of three schools in the Midwest, along with the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois, to establish a chair dedicated to the study of Jainism.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity that allows us to add this position to our globally-recognized faculty. This endowment will fund dynamic scholarship on this vitally important spiritual and philosophical tradition in ways that will surely have significant impacts and relevance for our troubled world today,” said Department Chair John Dunne, Distinguished Professor of Contemplative Humanities.

The endowment will fund the Śri Anantnāth Chair in Jainism, and the search for a candidate to assume this prestigious position will start in the 2022 academic year. Dunne plans to have the candidate join the department in the Fall semester of 2023.

“Jainism is founded on principles that are of great relevance today, including non-violence and the pluralistic notion that the truth can only be accessed by combining multiple viewpoints. In terms of lifestyle, these ethical and philosophical perspectives are realized through a “non-possessive” attitude, whereby one does not seek to own more than one needs, which is yet another potentially transformative practice for our world today. Academically, UW-Madison has a long and proud tradition of top-notch scholarship in South Asian Studies, and we are delighted to be adding so significantly to that distinguished history of scholarship in this area,” Dunne said.

College of Letters and Science Dean Eric Wilcots added, “The College of Letters and Science has been a leader in the study of Asian thought and language since the William Holm Williams first offered Sanskrit classes in the 1880s. This gift will help us build on that leadership and nurture it for future generations.”

UW-Madison, and the College of Letters and Science, has a rich history of scholarship related to the study of South Asia. Along with the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, it is the home to the Center for South Asia, which was founded in 1960 with support from the U.S. Government. Since 1971, it has hosted a yearly conference on South Asia that brings together more than 1000 scholars from around the world to advance understanding of the region and the South Asian diaspora.

UW-Madison’s Department of Asian Languages and Cultures is recognized worldwide as a leader in the study of contemporary and historical aspects of Asian cultures. The department is home to 17 tenure-track faculty, 10 academic staff instructors, more than 60 graduate students, and more than 200 undergraduates who are pursuing majors or certificates in multiple tracks within the department.