12 June 2015

Most prestigious academic award in the Netherlands

Religious Studies Scholar Birgit Meyer receives the NWO Spinoza Prize

Prof. dr. Birgit Meyer. Foto: Ed van Rijswijk
Prof. Birgit Meyer - Photo: Ed van Rijswijk

Birgit Meyer, Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University, has been awarded the NWO Spinoza Prize. This award is a tribute to Meyer’s academic work, and consists of 2.5 million Euro for further academic research. The Spinoza Prize is the most prestigious academic award in the Netherlands.

From her background as a cultural anthropologist Meyer conducts research on faith and religion in their social and societal context, in which she combines approaches from religious studies, anthropology, philosophy and media studies. Connecting subject areas that were previously not connected has earned Meyer great international acclaim.

Changing role of religion

Meyer’s latest research focuses primarily on the relationship between media, sensory experience, material culture and the presence of religion in the public domain. She strives to understand the changing role of religion in our times and to show that the academic study of religion is crucial for a better understanding of our world in the early 21st century.

Meyer's research opens a new and promising direction of religious research, which among other things can help to interpret the renewed and global interest in religion (for example, Islam, but also new forms of Christianity, such as the successful Pentecostalism in Africa).

Prof. Birgit Meyer

In 2011 Birgit Meyer became Professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University. She has been a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences since 2007. In April 2015 she was awarded the prestigious Prize for the Academy Professor of the KNAW (Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences). In 2011, the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung in Germany awarded her the Anneliese Maier Forschungspreis. Meyer is co-editor of the international magazine Material Religion and vice president of the International African Institute.

An overview of Birgit Meyer's academic career.

Birgit Meyer receives the Spinoza Prize 2015
Birgit Meyer expresses her gratitude for receiving the Spinoza Prize. Photo: Andrea van Leerdam
Marjan Oudeman, cvb
Mr. Marjan Oudeman

New content and direction

Marjan OudemanPresident of the Executive Board of Utrecht University, congratulates Meyer on her prize:

“We are incredibly proud of Birgit Meyer. Birgit belongs to the international top in her field of expertise. The strength of her research into the role of religion worldwide, is its interdisciplinary nature. She not only looks at religion as a cultural anthropologist and a religious studies scholar, but also connects other subject areas to this, such as media studies and philosophy. In this way she makes an important contribution to giving new content and direction on religious studies, in an age of secularisation on the one hand and the revival of religious beliefs on the other. Because she approaches her research from different angles, she manages to connect with current social issues.”

NWO-Spinozapremie

NWO awards the Spinoza Prizes annually to researchers working in the Netherlands, who are among the very best in their field of expertise by international standards. This year, besides Birgit Meyer, organic chemist René Janssen (Eindhoven), statistician Aad van der Vaart (Leiden) and human geneticist Ciska Wijmenga (Groningen) also received a Spinoza Prize.