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Dr. Mattias Brand receives the Gerardus van der Leeuw PhD Dissertation Award

This March, LUCSoR alumnus Dr. Mattias Brand received the Gerardus van der Leeuw PhD Dissertation Award from the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG) for his dissertation, “The Manichaeans of Kellis: Religion, Community, and Everyday Life”. It is a biennial award for a PhD dissertation that has made a substantial contribution to the academic study of religion.

Manichaeans of Kellis

In April of 2019, Mattias Brand received his PhD at Leiden University for his dissertation “The Manichaeans of Kellis: Religion, Community, and Everyday Life”. His dissertation is the first monograph examining the daily life of a Manichaean community in the Roman Empire. It shows where and when a Manichaean affiliation mattered for ancient individuals and families, how it affected their personal letters, as well as their day-to-day interactions in a fourth-century village. The papyrological and archaeological evidence from the village of Kellis (modern Ismant el-Kharab) presents a unique perspective on this late antique religion that is otherwise mostly known for its theological and cosmological system.

Bringing Manichaeism to life

The specific setting of these findings, in particular having liturgical texts and personal letters from the same houses, offers many opportunities to reconstruct family networks, village interactions, as well as some of the underlying religious structures and practices. By pursuing a bottom-up approach, this study brings Manichaeism to life as a religion for ordinary people. It also engages with the larger theoretical debates concerning the role and position of “lived religion” in the academic Study of Religion, as well as current perspectives on the fundamental transformation of religion in Late Antiquity.

Keynote lecture

The jury praised its ‘meticulous analysis of unique sources and an up to date conceptual apparatus’. In response to hearing the news, Mattias Brand remarked: ‘I am honored with this award and thankful for the scholarly network at Leiden University. This study of Manichaeanism in everyday life highlights the changing dynamics in a village setting, thereby contributing to our understanding of  the transformation of religion in late antiquity as one of the key moments in the history of religion\s.’

Brand will also deliver a keynote lecture at the NGG's biennial Autumn Conference on “Religion and Heritage: Futures for Religious Pasts”. The Conference is planned for 3-5 November in Amsterdam – but during this pandemic no date is certain.

Currently, Mattias Brand is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Zürich. Twitter: @MBinAmsterdam.

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