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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
Sessional Instructor in Sanskrit
Email address: 
+44 (0)1223

Jonathan Duquette is a scholar of South Asian religions whose work concentrates primarily on the history of late medieval and early modern Sanskrit intellectual traditions in India. After completing his Ph.D. in religious studies at the University of Montreal (2011), Dr. Duquette was a postdoctoral researcher in Hamburg (2012-13), Leiden (2013-14), Kyoto (2014-15) and Oxford (2015-2019, as a Newton International Fellow and then Marie-Curie Fellow). He was also twice a visiting researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna. He recently completed a monograph on the rise of Śivādvaita Vedānta, a poorly understood tradition of philosophical theology that rose to prominence in early modern South India. Trained initially as a physicist, Dr. Duquette also nourishes an interest for the dialogue between natural sciences and religions as well as for recent developments in philosophy of science and comparative philosophy. He has published articles in Religions of South AsiaJournal of Indological StudiesNumenPhilosophy East and West and the Journal of Indian Philosophy (of which he is the Assistant Editor since 2017), and also contributed to the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia for Philosophy of Religion.

Teaching responsibilities: 

Dr Duquette teaches intermediate and advanced Sanskrit texts.

Research interests: 

 My research interests include Sanskrit intellectual history, classical Indian philosophy, philosophy of religion and early modern India. In recent years, I have published peer-reviewed articles on themes ranging from classical Indian epistemology and 'new logic' (navya-nyāya) in India, to the history of Śaiva religion in early modern South India. M y last monograph, titled "Defending God in Sixteenth-Century India: The Saiva Oeuvre of Appaya Diksita" (Oxford Oriental Monographs series, OUP) documents the rise to prominence of Śivādvaita Vedānta, a school of philosophical theology that was single-handedly established by the celebrated 16th-century polymath Appaya Dīkṣita. The book is the first in-depth study of Appaya's influential oeuvre and of its reception in the wider political, cultural and intellectual milieu of the Vijayanagara empire. Based to a large extent on hitherto unstudied primary sources in Sanskrit, this study offers new insights into Appaya's intellectual life and the hermeneutical strategies he deployed to make his massive theological project a success in early modern India. In doing so, the book opens up new possibilities for our understanding of the complex relation between the world of Sanskrit literati and the wider socio-religious world in which they lived, wrote and debated during the last decades of the Vijayanagara empire. 

My current research project pursues similar academic interests, and investigates the history of traditional Sanskrit scholarship in modern India (1750-1900). While research has been conducted on the active social role played by communities of traditional Sanskrit scholars (pandits) in early modern India—from their role as service people in Western India and historical agents in colonial Bengal to their agency as ‘middlemen’ in the establishment of British-influenced education in North India—an accurate picture of their scholarly interests and intellectual contributions is still largely a desideratum. My research focuses on the life and scholarly practices of modern pandits of Advaita Vedānta. One of the most influential scholarly traditions to have ever developed on the Indian subcontinent, Advaita Vedānta kept thriving in modern times as it became the mainstream position for the generation of Hindu reformers who achieved national independence. My research seeks to formulate an alternative history of this tradition in which the pandits play a more prominent role. For this purpose, I combine philological and prosopographical methods with techniques of digital humanities research, in particular social network analysis, a technique of quantitative analysis increasingly used in Humanities to study complex networks of people interacting with one another. My investigation of the intellectual production of pandits at the eve of the modern era in India will hopefully lead to a more nuanced understanding of the little-known role played by traditional scholars in the development of India's intellectual modernity, and also provide some of the missing context needed to better understand India's recent religious history under colonial rule.

Further publications