Institutional Profile: Oriental Institute


The Oriental Institute is a public non-university research institution and one of the two leading research institutes in Oriental Studies within the Czech Republic. Established in 1922 under the auspices of the first president of Czechoslovakia, Prof. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the OI is one of the oldest public research institutions dedicated to the study of Oriental cultures in Europe. It is a part of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS), an umbrella research institution directly financed by the Czech government similar in function and structure to other public research institutions throughout the world such as the Centre national de la recherchescientifique (CNRS) in France or the Academia Sinica in the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Scholars at the OI pursue their research within the respective fields of study, aiming at the highest levels of primary research quality in line with international academic trends. The OI's framework allows for a flexible and open-ended approach to research initiatives in regionally defined topics, creating an ideal environment for interdisciplinary research. The OI consists of three departments covering the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia, and focuses on history, religion, culture, language, and politics of ancient Near East, the Middle East (including Turkey and Israel), India, Inner Asia, Southeast Asia, China and Taiwan. Experts from the US, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany or Lithuania have recently joined the staff on post-doctoral and research positions. Besides research and publication, the OI also facilitates outreach of its expertise to various state institutions, media, and general public. Some of the collaborative interdisciplinary projects currently investigated by the OI's experts are China's Cultural Diplomacy: Role of Non-State Actors and Regional Variations in cooperation with experts from the University of Vienna; Death, Graves, and the Hereafter in Islam; Comprehensive Strategy of the Czech Republic towards the Middle East and North Africa; Endangered Architecture in Contemporary Mosul, Iraq; or Disadvantaged Communities of South India.

Although education and instruction of young experts do not directly constitute a part of the mission of the OI, most of its researchers teach courses and advise students at national and private universities in the Czech Republic, including their programs for international students. The Institute's primary collaboration partner in education is the Charles University in Prague, particularly its Faculty of Philosophy and Arts and the Faculty of Social Sciences. Other partners are for instance the Palacký University in Olomouc, the Masaryk University in Brno, or the Metropolitan University Prague. From among international partners, the OI collaborates for instance with experts from the Academia Sinica, National Chengchi University in Taiwan, or Humboldt University in Berlin.

The OI also operates the General Library of Oriental Studies with some 200.000 volumes in Western, Asian and African languages, the Lu Xun Library with some 70.000 volumes of books, periodicals and other sources in Chinese language dedicated to pre modern and early modern publications, the John King Fairbank Library of some 1.600 books from personal holdings of the late doyen of Chinese studies, the Korean Library with some 4.000 mainly North and also South Korean titles, and finally the Tibetan Library with a collection of rare Tibetan manuscripts and prints.

The Oriental Institute publishes two academic journals. Archiv Orientální (aror, issn 0044 8699) is a quarterly peer--reviewed academic journal published mostly in english. founded in 1929, archiv orientální provides an international forum for the publication of innovative primary research focused on the culture, society, history, religion, language, and literature of the middle east, asia, and africa in past and present. it also accepts articles of distinction by social and political scientists. the editors are especially interested in novel approaches and fresh ideas that promise to make a substantial contribution to developments in their respective fields. articles are published in english, french, and german. archiv orientální also welcomes suggestions regarding special issues with a specific thematic focus, which are prepared by invited guest-editors from the international scholarly community. the journal also publishes a series of supplementa, which serve as a platform for edited volumes and monographs, the topics of which fall into the thematic range of the journal. content appearing in archiv orientální is indexed in both thomson reuter‘s art & humanities citation index (ahci) and elsevier‘s scopus. it is also accessible via ebsco and proquest. the other academic journal published by the oi, nový orient (new orient, issn 0029-5302`) is a peer-reviewed academic journal in Czech language founded in 1945. It is a leading journal in Oriental studies in the Czech Republic, which publishes research articles on history, religion, culture, language and politics of Asian and African countries in the past and present. The journal also publishes translations of literary works from Asian and African languages.

The Oriental Institute builds on the long-lasting contact and cooperation between Czech and Taiwanese academia. Besides several of the OI's experts being professionally focused on Taiwan (Táňa Dluhošová, Niki Alsford) or having spent time conducting research there (Ondřej Klimeš, Oliver Weingarten, Vladimír Liščák, Jarmila Ptáčková, Věra Veselá). The OI seeks to develop both individual and institutional relationship with Taiwanese experts and institutions. Individual research projects on Taiwan currently investigated by OI experts are e.g. Táňa Dluhošová´s Ideology and Language: A Corpus of Early Post-War Taiwanese Writings in cooperation with Alvin C. H. Chen from the National Changhua University of Education and Niki Alsford's comparative research on the formation of urban elites in Dadaocheng and Deptford in the 19th and early 20th century.

In the past, Táňa Dluhošová investigated the project Taiwan Spotlight aiming at promoting Taiwanese scholarship and Taiwanese culture in the Czech Republic. Within the project we in cooperation with other partners organized two academic conferences (Digital Sinology and Taiwan Studies, September 2014 and Genius Loci as Formative Force in Taiwan Literature and Culture, March 2015). We were happy to welcome Taiwanese writers Ping Lu and Wu Ming-yi who had two public readings of their work in two different cities. Within the project we also tried to promote Taiwanese documentaries. In addition to a small workshop on Taiwanese documentaries, we screened documentary films within the biggest book fair in the Czech Republic, "Book World." As we were approved with the extension of the project we organized similar event with Taiwanese filmmakers attached to the biggest documentary film festival dedicated to human rights, "One World" in March 2016. The screening was accompanied with a public discussion hosted by the Václav Havel Library. It was a pleasure to see that there was a gradual interest from the general public in our events and there were about one hundred people in audience during the public discussion coming from various backgrounds. The annual conference of the European Association of Taiwanese Studies organized at the turn of March and April 2016 was a natural climax of the previous Taiwan-related activities.

Since December 2014, the OI is honored to host the Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies (TRCCS, 台灣漢學資源中心) established under the sponsorship of the National Central Library (NCL) and the Center for Chinese Studies (CCS) in Taiwan. The TRCCS at the OI aims to promote international exchange in Chinese studies, promote Taiwan‘s achievements in Sinology, collaboratively build a global Sinological resource and information platform and broaden and deepen cultural exchanges. The TRCCS at the OI is annually supplied by the books, audio-visual materials and e-resources published in Taiwan. The NCL has also established an IP channel for partner organizations to search the digital resources of the library, the CCS and major institutes in Taiwan within copyright limits. All the TRCCS resources are available to both academic and public readership. The TRCCS also runs a series of annual Taiwan Lecture on Chinese Studies, which presents new Sinological scholarship and facilitates further academic exchange between the Czech Republic and Taiwan.

In December 2015, the OI established a branch Research Center affiliated with the Institute of History and Philology of the Academia Sinica. The Center is the first humanities research center of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Asia and is currently headed by Táňa Dluhošová. The founding of the Center is also a very important step for the Oriental Institute and in the development of Czech-Taiwanese academic cooperation. The Oriental Institute is grateful for Academia Sinica and its Institute of History and Philology who have generously welcomed us as their international cooperation partners. The OI also gratefully acknowledges the founding of the Center as a successful outcome of long-term, systematic and multi-faceted cooperation and support to Czech Sinology by other Taiwanese institutions, namely the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, Center for Chinese Studies, National Central Library, Ministry of Science and Technology, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Prague and others.

The Center provides office space and institutional support to researchers working on a variety of topics related to East and Southeast Asia who wish to conduct research in Taipei. The Center will initially facilitate research of the Oriental Institute and other Czech academic institutions in Taiwan, to assist in forming collaborative relations among Czech and Taiwanese research institutions and to facilitate participation of Ph.D. students from Czech and Taiwanese universities. In a similar fashion, the Center seeks to eventually integrate experts from academic institutions from other countries, thus forming an international collaborative research network. Apart from primary research, the Center will engage in a wide range of networking and outreach activities, such as the organization of conferences, workshops, and lectures. It will also serve as an interface for Czech and Taiwanese academic exchange in other humanities and social sciences.

The Center is a part of a broader multidisciplinary project Power and Strategies of Social and Political Order. In the first stage, it focuses on China and Taiwan and aims to open up a perspective for an interdisciplinary, comparative research that will expand and transcend the boundaries of Chinese Studies proper while bolstering the viability and relevance of Chinese Studies as a discipline in the Czech Republic and Europe through an innovative amalgamation of the traditional strengths of Sinology as a form of historical-philological scholarship with impulses from the social sciences and other disciplines. In the second stage, the project will gradually involve also experts in other area studies (Northeast Asia, Inner Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Middle East and North Africa). The project is further structured into several interrelated, topically and disciplinarily framed research panels—Foundations of Power, Representations of Power, and Structures of Power. In a long-term perspective, the Oriental Institute aims to initiate an international interdisciplinary cluster of expertise in Asian area studies.

Ondřej Klimeš is a researcher at the Oriental Institute focusing on history and politics of modern Xinjiang and China. He also teaches courses at the Institute of East Asian Studies of the Charles University in Prague.

Ondřej Klimeš