The University of Birmingham has made three key academic appointments in establishing its new world-leading teaching and research portfolio in Jainism. Revealed recently, the academics taking up these posts will develop teaching and research in Jainism and contemporary issues.
Dr Areti Theofilopoulou has been appointed Assistant Professor in the Ethics of Non-Violence. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Research Lab for Bioethics at the Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences. Her research examines the intersection between political philosophy and applied ethics and the ethics of personal relationships, particularly on domestic violence. She will start her new position at the University of Birmingham in September.
Dr Theofilopoulou said: “I am honoured to join the Bhagavan Dharmanath Jain Studies offering at the University of Birmingham as the Assistant Professor in the Ethics of Non-Violence. Jainism's profound teachings on ahimsa (non-violence) and its impact on personal, social and environmental well-being align perfectly with my own academic pursuits.
“I am excited to engage with students and scholars alike, fostering a deeper understanding of the ethics of non-violence.”
Dr Marie-Hélène Gorisse has been announced as Dharmanath Assistant Professor in Jain Studies. She previously held a position as a Research Fellow in the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on Jainism, on the way Jain thought developed in dialogue with other South Asian religious traditions, and on the contemporary relevance of Jainism as a contributor to the study of religion, theology and global philosophy of religion.
Dr Gorisse said: "Jainism has a lot to contribute to discussions that are shaping the world of tomorrow, especially concerning environmental sustainability and global ethics. As the Dharmanath Assistant Professor in Jain Studies, I am excited and honoured to be instrumental in ensuring there is dialogue between academics, the Jain community in Birmingham, in the UK and globally, and our students on these topical issues."
Jinesh Sheth will join the University of Birmingham as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Jain Studies. He is currently in the final stages of completing his PhD on ‘A Critical Study of Anekāntavāda’ at the Department of Philosophy, University of Mumbai.
Jinesh Sheth says: “I am so pleased to join the Bhagavan Dharmanath Jain Studies offering as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. It is a great opportunity for me to further pursue my research and engage with scholars working in the fields of philosophy, theology, religion and Jain studies.
“I also look forward to connecting with the wider community, fostering a deeper appreciation for Jain values and their practical application in the modern world.”
The new academic team will cover a wide range of topics, including Jainism, peace and conflict resolution, environmental ethics, ecology and animal rights across theology, religion and ethics. The team will also support the recently introduced specialist Master’s Pathway in the Global Philosophy of Religion and Doctoral Research in Jain Studies.
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The university announced the creation of a Jain Studies offering in December 2022 – made possible through a gift of $1.5million to the university from a group of philanthropists, including Dr Jasvant Modi, representing US donors and, Nemu Chandaria OBE, from the Institute of Jainology, representing UK donors.
Dr Jasvant Modi says: "I am truly honoured and immensely proud to witness the University of Birmingham's momentous step in establishing a team of scholars who will contribute world-leading teaching and research in Jainism. The appointment of these three esteemed researchers signifies a profound commitment to advancing the understanding and appreciation of Jain principles and philosophies.
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“Together, we embark on a transformative journey, fostering a deeper understanding of compassion, non-violence, and harmonious coexistence to contribute to a more empathetic and sustainable world."
Professor Charlotte Hempel, Head of the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham, added: “I warmly congratulate Areti, Marie-Hélène and Jinesh on their new roles and look forward to welcoming this outstanding team of scholars and educators in Jain Studies to the University of Birmingham.
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“These key appointments are an exciting step forward for the development of Jain Studies at Birmingham and mean we can now expand and develop our existing research and teaching in Jainism, which will not only benefit our students but also the academic community, as well as enhance public knowledge and understanding on the topic. I am really looking forward to seeing this investment in Jainism bear fruit in the classroom and research on the existential issues we face today.”
*Info: University of Birmingham