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Olupona to receive 2018 Marty award for religious understanding


Jacob Olupona

A professor of African Religious Traditions and African American Studies at Harvard University, Jacob Kehinde Olupona, will be honoured with the 2018 Martin E. Marty Award for public understanding of religion.

The Marty Award, which is in its 22nd year of existence, recognises extraordinary contributions to public understanding of religion by individuals whose works have relevance and speak to scholars and other publics.

Olupona, who has authored five books and edited six others, had done extensive researches on African spirituality and ritual practices in religious pluralism, as well as Diaspora African communities in the Americas.


His works also include the under-studied reverse missionaries from Africa who migrated to the United States to establish churches.

He is also known for his works on peace and understanding of the Nigerian civic, academic, religious and political spheres, which earned him the National Order of Merit, the nation’s highest honour for intellectual accomplishment in science, medicine, engineering, technology and the humanities.

A statement announcing the award by the American Academy of Religion (AAR)’s Committee on Public Understanding of Religion, noted that Olupona has continued to shape the study of African religions, by not only correcting earlier misrepresentations of traditions, but also highlighting their global developments and relevance.

Some of his books are: African Religions: A Brief Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2014) and the Kingship Religion and Rituals in a Nigerian Community: A Phenomenological Study of Ondo Yoruba Festivals, which won the University of Stockholm’s Social Science and Humanities Grant.

Harvard University also awarded him the Cabot Fellowship (2012-2013) for his scholarship and City of 201 Gods: Ile Ife in Time, Space and the Imagination (University of California Press, 2013).

Olupona had held several visiting lectureship, including the Edna and Gene Jordan Davidson Visiting Chair, Florida International University, Miami; the Henry S. Truman Research Institute for Advancement of Peace; the Rudin-Dricell Lectureship, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, 2012 and the University of Berlin, Germany visiting professorship.

Besides receiving the Reimar Lust Award for distinguished scholarship from the Humboldt Foundation, Germany, Olupona has also received fellowships and grants from several other foundations, including the John Simon Guggenheim, the American Philosophical Society, Getty, the Ford, and Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship.

Olupona will be interviewed by John Campbell, a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and current Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations for an engaging dialogue about his life and works in November.

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Jacob Kehinde Olupona
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