Statement of Purpose

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The Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is dedicated to long-term research on Asian cultures. The geographic and cultural area under consideration includes East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia, which encompasses the fields of Indology, Tibetology, Sinology, Japanology, Buddhist Studies and Religious Studies. Research at the institute, using philologic historical methods and based on primary sources in the relevant languages, deals above all with intellectual and cultural history, and includes subject matter reaching from questions concerning the history of philosophy and religion, the history of mentalities, religious hermeneutics, studies on concepts and ideas to lexicography. Projects include research on broad cultural questions, the editing and publishing of important primary source materials, and the preparation of specialized dictionaries.

The research results aim to broaden our knowledge in these different specialized fields as well as promote our understanding of the multifaceted developments, connections and mutual influences in and between Asian cultures.

Research focal points

  • Editing of Buddhist Sanskrit literature from newly available sources
  • The Buddhist epistemologic-logical tradition in India and Tibet
  • Indian religion and philosophy, with a special focus on the history of eristics, dialectics and logic, the Rāmānuja School, the traditions of the Advaita Vedānta, and the Pāñcarātra
  • Indian Tantrism
  • The historical development of Shinto
(See also projects.)

Academic events and collaborations

The institute convenes symposia on a regular basis, while the institute’s research fellows also present their research results at international conferences and institutions. Moreover, longer stays abroad as well as occasional invitations of guest researchers have resulted in a number of close international contacts. Both aspects ensure that the institute is well linked internationally. A number of collaborations are also being conducted with the University of Vienna, where the majority of the institute’s fellows regularly teach, enabling them to pass on the results of their research to their students.

A short history of the Institute


The "Commission for Languages and Cultures of South and East Asia" is founded through the efforts of Erich Frauwallner. In 1970 the name is changed to "Commission for Languages and Cultures of South Asia." The publication series of the Commission, which deals primarily with the history of Indian philosophy, has been continued until the present day.


Under Gerhard Oberhammer as its director, the first research fellow is employed at the Commission to work on a long-term project of a dictionary of Indian epistemology and logic.


The "Research Unit for Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia" is founded, functioning in cooperation with the Commission. Initially employing two research fellows, by 1990 the number of research fellows was already seven.


A successful evaluation leads to the promotion of the Research Unit to an Institute, the present "Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia," headed by Oberhammer. The Commission becomes an integral part of the Institute.


Oberhammer retires. Ernst Steinkellner becomes director of the Institute.


Incorporation of the Institute into the newly formed Centre for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology.


Helmut Krasser takes over the direction of the institute following the retirement of Steinkellner. Steinkellner continues the supervision of his research project as a guest research fellow. There are eleven research fellows, including the director, working at the Institute.


Helmut Krasser dies after a long desease. Under his leadership the institute has increased to about twenty members (more than 50% financed by external sources). For the time being Vincent Eltschinger is leading the IKGA as an interimist director.


Birgit Kellner takes over the direction of the institute. Vincent Eltschinger takes a chair at Sorbonne in Paris.

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