Babu Thaliath (India)

Wuppertal, 2017.

The emergence of sciences, particularly natural sciences, was shaped by historical and cultural premises in Europe. Its cultural grammar helped to establish the primacy of the “exact sciences” and their worldwide story of success. Who better to focus on its cornerstones than someone who acquired merits in civil engineering in his early years of study (B. Tech., 1988, Kerala). A resulting interest in spatial sciences and aesthetics led Babu Thaliath to an in-depth study of German philology (M. A. 1994, New Delhi) and further into the history of modern philosophy. He focused on the epistemological foundations of Kant’s transcendentalism and Baumgarten’s aesthetics, which eventually led to his current research areas that include the inseparably interwoven condition of bodily and mental experiences.

Thaliath, now professor of German studies and Philosophy at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, received a KAAD scholarship in the years 1999 to 2002 and completed his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Freiburg under the supervision of Prof. Klaus Jacobi. His dissertation was entitled: “Perspektivierung als Modalität der Symbolisierung. Erwin Panofskys Unternehmung zur Ausweitung und Präzisierung des Symbolisierungsprozesses in der Philosophie der symbolischen Formen von Ernst Cassirer” (Perspectivisation as  Modality of Symbolisation. Erwin Panofsky’s undertaking to expand and specify the symbolisation process in the philosophy of symbolic forms by Ernst Cassirer; Würzburg 2005). Mentor, inspiring interlocutor and teacher in the best sense of the word was during his doctoral research, in the years after, and remains to date Professor Gottfried Boehm. In one-to-one conversations and in the context of a postgraduate colloquium at the Art History Faculty of the University of Basel, Thaliath was able to develop intellectually, but also to receive concrete support in his research projects.

Podium at the anniversary academy on April 25, 2008 with alumni from five decades of KAAD history (from left to right: A. Pires, S. Lerner, H. Weber (moderator), Kh. Daibes, Ok-Bun Lee, B. Thaliath).

His postdoctoral studies took Thaliath to further well-known places of research in the philosophy of science in Europe: With a short research fellowship again from KAAD in the year 2007, Dominik Perler, Chair of Theoretical Philosophy, Berlin (HU), became his mentor and was to influence Thaliath’s research in the years to come. Shortly thereafter, the Gerda Henkel Foundation supported Thaliaths research in a two and a half year project in Berlin and Cambridge under the guidance of late Prof. John Forrester and Prof. Hasok Chang at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge (2009-2012). Thaliath continued his research in 2016 at the BMBF-funded Käte Hamburger Kolleg Morphomata in Cologne with a new focus on the phenomenological and biographical dimensions of memory and knowledge.

KAAD has had a lasting impact on the life of Babu Thaliath. He holds unforgettable memories of the intellectual exchange he enjoyed during a trip to Rome in the Holy Year 2000 with our Secretary General, Dr. Hermann Weber. Most striking, however, is how over the years Thaliath’s research findings evolved. He started by selectively immersing into concepts like “structural intuition” as proposed by Martin Kemp, which can be understood as an epistemological tool for the analysis of fundamental phenomena in the history of science. Later, he came to comprehensively contextualising the emergence of the modern sciences (Wissenschaft und Kontext in der frühen Neuzeit [Science and Context in the Early Modern Age], Freiburg 2016).

At the international KAAD convention, Manila 2018.

Something is fulfilling about the work of KAAD when researchers like Professor Thaliath have been able to grow through it to what they are valued for today in the international research community. Here, another young talent found his intellectual home through KAAD and developed his international academic network. Today, with the help of KAAD, Thaliath inspires a new generation of young researchers in their academic pursuits. It is, therefore, our great pleasure that in the near future Prof. Thaliath is willing to promote through KAAD a scholarship programme for renowned Indian researchers to spend short research periods in Germany.

Esther-Maria Guggenmos