Erik Meinema wins Gerardus van der Leeuw Dissertatieprijs

Erik Meinema ontvangt de Gerardus van der Leeuw Dissertatieprijs

Lecturer Erik Meinema has received the Gerardus van der Leeuw PhD Dissertation Award of the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG) for his dissertation Regulating Religious Coexistence: The Intricacies of ‘Interfaith’ Cooperation in Coastal Kenya. It offers insights into religious pluralism within the context of a secular government, colonial and post-colonial. In particular, Meinema explored how religion and political secularity develop in opposition to each other.

“A majestic achievement”

The jury, consisting of Johanneke Kroesbergen, Peter-Ben Smit, and Eric Venbrux, unanimously decided to award the dissertation prize to Meinema. According to them, his thesis best met the criteria: innovative research, thorough analysis of original material, critical approach to established theories, and clarity of wording and style.

“The thesis is based on solid historical research, admirable language skills, over a year of anthropological field research, and an excellent command of relevant anthropological and religious studies literature and theory,” the jury writes. “What also weighed heavily is that the idea for the project and the approach were developed by the researcher himself. It is a bold project, complex in nature, but it does not succumb to that complexity. On the contrary. And that is a mega achievement.”

“A great honour”

“It is a great honour to receive this PhD Award”, Meinema responds. “I want to thank the jury for their kind words, my PhD supervisors Birgit Meyer and Lucien van Liere, my colleagues from the Religious Matters in an Entangled World research programme in which my research was embedded, the Dutch Research Council (NWO) for funding my project, and above all, the colleagues and interlocutors from Kenya from whom I have learned so much during my research.”

About his research, he says: “This research shows that in the Kenyan context, Christian morality and the strategic interests of Western donors and political elites often set the standard of what is understood by (desirable forms of) ‘religion’.” It also shows how each of the three studied religious groups formulates its own response to requested civic ideals (peace, morality, and national unity) and to the desires of Western donors concerned with ‘interfaith’ cooperation and deradicalisation.


The Dutch Association for the Study of Religion is one of the oldest national organisations for the study of religion worldwide. NGG was founded in 1947 on the initiative of Gerardus van der Leeuw (1890-1950), professor of Phenomenology of Religions at the University of Groningen as of 1918. In 1945, van der Leeuw became Minister of Education, Arts, and Sciences (Onderwijs, Kunsten en Wetenschappen) under the first Dutch government after World War II.

The Gerardus van der Leeuw PhD Dissertation Award is the NGG’s biennial award granted to a PhD dissertation that has made a substantial contribution to the academic study of religion.