[INDOLOGY] Obituary for Professor Dieter B. Kapp

Finnian Moore-Gerety finnian_moore-gerety at brown.edu
Fri Nov 19 21:39:37 UTC 2021

Dear list—
On behalf of Professor Ulrike Niklas, I’m sharing this obituary for Professor Dieter B. Kapp.

On November 2, 2021, Prof. Dr. Dieter B. Kapp died at the age of 80 in a Cologne hospital.

Kapp was born in Heidelberg in 1941, where he also spent his entire school and study time. After graduating from the Kurfürst-Friedrich-Gymnasium in 1960, he studied classical (Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit) and modern (Hindi, Urdu and Tamil) Indology as well as classical philology, Indo-European studies, Egyptology, ancient Near Eastern studies and Islamic studies. In 1971 he was awarded a Dr. Phil. In the subjects of Indology, Islamic Studies and Modern Languages ​​and Literatures of India. After working as a research assistant, he completed his habilitation there in 1980.

From 1983 to 1988 Kapp held a Heisenberg research grant from the DFG. In addition, he held a visiting professorship in anthropology at the University of Munich from 1985 to 1986. In 1989 he was appointed adjunct professor at the University of Heidelberg. In 1989 he was given another visiting professorship in ethnology, this time at the Free University of Berlin. From 1990 to 2006 Kapp was a university professor and managing director of the Institute for Indology and Tamil Studies at the University of Cologne.

 Throughout his teaching and research activities, Kapp advocated the South Indian studies (especially Tamil), which were largely neglected by Indology until not so long ago, and for ethnographic, cultural and philological studies of Indian tribal societies, especially the Kurumba- Peoples in the Nilgiri region of western Tamil Nadu.

Under Kapp's direction, the Tamil studies established there in 1964 by Klaus-Ludwig Janert flourished again in Cologne. In particular, Kapp also took care of the expansion of the important Tamil library of the Cologne institute.

Among Kapp's numerous publications, two thematic groups stand out in particular. On the one hand, he wrote numerous translations from the modern Hindi and Tamil literatures, including in particular short stories and modern poetry. His translations are characterized by a high level of style and excellent readability in the target language German, which is why he knew how to make Indian literatures accessible to a wide audience. - On the other hand, he made an exemplary effort to document several tribal languages ​​threatened with extinction as well as cultural content from Indian tribal cultures.

Since 1974, Kapp had collected audiovisual material - in the form of tape recordings and slides - during numerous trips and field research stays in various areas of India. He laboriously transcribed the sound recordings, studied the respective language and made translations and studies of the texts. In this way, he primarily developed and preserved the languages ​​and cultural foundations of the various Kurumba peoples who are at home in the Nilgiri Mountains of southern India. He did not only endeavor to present the results of his work to a Western academic audience in the form of publications. Before his last trips to India (2014 and 2017), he took care of the digitization of the sound recordings and brought them back to the Kurumba tribes in South India in the form of audio CDs. He made it possible for a young generation there to hear the old, traditional stories straight from the mouths of their grandfathers. In at least two cases, the traditional creation myths were lost with the death of the older generation and were only returned to the tribe through Kapp's activity - a remarkable ethnographic interaction.

Dieter B. Kapp will be remembered as a tireless interdisciplinary researcher who knew how to combine Indology, ethnology and folklore, to shed light on previously unknown cultures and literatures of India, and who through numerous attractive publications facets of the historical and modern Indian spirit world has also made it available to a wider audience.

 Ulrike Niklas, Cologne University



Finnian M.M. Gerety
Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
[Affiliated] Faculty of Contemplative Studies and Center for Contemporary South Asia
Brown University
www.finniangerety.com <http://finniangerety.com/>

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