Academic Symposium in Honour of Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels
23 May 2014
On the occasion of the 65th birthday of Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels, Indologist at Heidelberg University, a one-day academic symposium will be taking place on Friday, 30 May 2014. At the invitation of the South Asia Institute (SAI) and the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, eight scholars will be presenting papers on Hinduism and research on Nepal designed to spark off lively discussion of Prof. Michaels’ two main research interests. The visiting experts come from Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the United States and specialise in ethnology, architectural history, Indology and religious studies. The symposium is entitled “Texts, Practices, Beliefs. Responses to the Oeuvre of Axel Michaels” and will assemble some 50 participants.
Axel Michaels studied Indology, philosophy and law in Munich and Hamburg and at the Benares Hindu University in India. After his doctorate in Hamburg he moved on to the Hamburg Museum of Ethnology and the University of Münster, followed in 1980 by the University of Kiel, where he did his habilitation in 1991. In the interim he spent two years as director of the Nepal Research Centre in Kathmandu. Another research sojourn took him to Wolfson College, Oxford (UK). In 1992 he accepted a professorial post at the University of Berne (Switzerland), four years later he was offered a professorship at Heidelberg University. Here he took over the professorship of Classical Indology at the SAI, where he now heads the Department of Religious and Cultural History of South Asia.
From 2002 to 2013 Prof. Michaels was spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Centre on “Ritual Dynamics”, an institution he significantly helped to shape. Since 2007 he has been a member of the directorate of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”. At the same time, Prof. Michaels is managing director of the newly established Centre for Transcultural Studies and heads the research unit “Religious and Law-Historical Sources from Pre-Modern Nepal” at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. As a member of the Academic Advisory Council, Axel Michaels is committed to supporting Heidelberg University’s interests and future developments.
Among Prof. Michaels’ focal research interests are the practice and history of Hinduism in India and the religions of Nepal. In this connection he focuses especially on rituals and festivities. Other key topics in his work are the sacral topography and sacral geography of Benares and Hindu asceticism. In addition he investigates ancient Indian law and legal literature in pre-modern Nepal. “With his scholarly work Axel Michaels has contributed crucially to the combination of textual studies and ethnographic research,” says Prof. Dr. Jörg Gengnagel of the SAI. “In so doing, he has established a new branch of research that he refers to as ‘Ethno-Indology’.” Together with Prof. Dr. Ute Hüsken of the University of Oslo (Norway) and Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja, of the “Asia and Europe” cluster, Prof. Gengnagel is one of the initiators of the symposium in honour of Axel Michaels.