Professor of African Religious Traditions Jacob Kehinde Olupona Does Research at Freie Universität Berlin
The Professor of African Religious Traditions Jacob Kehinde Olupona from Harvard University won a Reimar Lüst Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. As part of the award, Olupona is spending the academic year until June 2016 doing research at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. The award was presented in recognition of Olupona’s work in comparative religion in West Africa and the West African Diaspora, as he made a unique contribution to the study of indigenous religions and the integrative role indigenous religious forces exert in social, economic, and political differentiation processes. Moreover, he made valuable contributions through teaching at various universities in Europe and Africa and intensively supporting young Nigerian and German scholars. At Freie Universität Olupona is researching new Christian movements in Nigeria as well as the role of Pentecostal churches in the development of civil society, popular culture, and public space.
Jacob Kehinde Olupona was born in 1951 in Nigeria. After graduating from the University of Nigeria with a bachelor’s degree, he earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at Boston University. Olupona then held various positions in Nigeria (Obafemi Awolowo University) and the United States (University of California, Davis). Since 2006 he has been teaching at the Department for African and African American Studies and Harvard Divinity School, both at Harvard University. His research focuses on West African religions in Nigeria and the Nigerian Diaspora in North America with particular focus on the rituals and festivities of the Yoruba religion as well as aspects of religious pluralism and the role of religious forces in civil society processes.
Olupona is the recipient of numerous awards including grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1997), the American Philosophical Society (1995), and the Ford Foundation (2000). He received honorary doctorates in divinity from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the University of Abuja in Nigeria. In 2007 Olupona received the Nigerian National Order of Merit, that country’s prestigious award given each year for intellectual accomplishment in the four areas of science, medicine, engineering/technology, and humanities.