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Renske Janssen is the winner of the LUCAS Dissertation Prize 2021

The LUCAS Dissertation Prize has been awarded to Dr. Renske Janssen for her PhD thesis Religio Illicita? Roman Legal Interactions with Early Christianity in Context.

The LUCAS Dissertation Prize has been awarded to Dr. Renske Janssen for her PhD thesis Religio Illicita? Roman Legal Interactions with Early Christianity in Context. In the academic year 2020-2021 thirteen PhD candidates trained and supervised at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) defended their PhD thesis. Eight excellent candidates were shortlisted: Dr. Joost Haan, Dr. Tingting Hui, Dr. Renske Janssen, Dr. Fleur Praal, Dr. Jan Siglé, Dr. Anna Volkmar, Dr. Tessa de Zeeuw, and Dr. Pao-Yi Yang. The jury was very impressed by the high quality of all candidates. The winner was announced during a meeting of the LUCAS Institute Council on Monday 6 December 2021.

Religio Illicita? Roman Legal Interactions with Early Christianity in Context

Dr. Renske Janssen delivered an extraordinary performance. She wrote her dissertation under the supervision of prof. dr. Jürgen Zangenberg and prof. dr. Luuk de Ligt. Her PhD thesis Religio Illicita? Roman Legal Interactions with Early Christianity in Context examines how Roman administrators dealt with early Christian groups. The jury was deeply impressed by Renske's ability to break new ground in a familiar field by considering early Christianity from a legal perspective, which fundamentally changes the way in which we look at the interaction between Rome and Christianity. Renske Janssen demonstrates excellent expertise in Roman jurisprudence, a field too often overlooked in early Christian studies. She also presents an innovative account of the treatment of different minority groups and ‘religious dissenters’ in the Roman Empire, including Christians, Jews and diviners. Her PhD thesis has already generated exceptional impact both within academia and beyond. She was interviewed in national newspapers and on the Belgian radio, and a book based on her thesis has been accepted for publication with Oxford University Press.

The LUCAS Dissertation Prize Shortlist

The competition was exceptionally strong this year. Here are the other shortlisted candidates:

As a neurologist, Joost Haan is a specialist on the topic of migraine, but now he is also a specialist in literary studies. Joost's dissertation is titled Migraine as Text - Text as Migraine, Diagnosis and Literature and it was written under the supervision of prof. dr. Frans Willem Korsten and prof. dr. Michel Ferrari. This truly interdisciplinary project analyses the representation of a specific illness in literature, but beyond this also elaborates on what a literary approach has to offer to the medical field, and what a medical approach could bring to the field of literary studies.

Tingting Hui was supervised by dr. Yasco Horsman and prof. dr. Ernst van Alphen. Her dissertation Melodramas of the Tongue: Accented Speech in Literature, Art, and Theory considers the importance of accent, not as a linguistic phenomenon, but as a critical concept for analyzing and criticizing cultural phenomena. The committee was particularly impressed with how this dissertation combines theory with analysis and literary autobiography. In and of itself, the dissertation demonstrates that linguistic and cultural diversity within an institution is highly valuable.

Fleur Praal wrote her dissertation, titled Symbolic capital and scholarly communication in the Humanities: an Analysis of sociotechnical transition, under the supervision of prof. dr. Adriaan van der Weel and dr. Thed van Leeuwen. It was nominated because of the knowledge it transfers first of all within the academia, to us as scholars, who are often not particularly knowledgable about this topic, and who can now learn more about publication practices within the humanities. But also because of its impact beyond academia on the practical field of academic publishing. The publishing landscape is changing quickly now: this PhD thesis gives a timely analysis of a highly urgent topic.

Jan Siglé was nominated for his PhD thesis From Monsters to Mediators: The Evolution of the Theme of Altruism in Early Robotic Science Fiction Texts, which was supervised by dr. Evert Jan van Leeuwen and prof. dr. Peter Liebregts. This interdisciplinary thesis deals with the increasingly important phenomenon of human-machine relations and constitutes a great example of the importance of mediation, collaboration, mutual understanding, and altruism in all relations, including those between man and robot.

Anna Volkmar’s dissertation Muddling Through Wicked Complexity: Why We Should Look at Art When We Talk About Nuclear Power was supervised by prof. dr. Robert Zwijnenberg and dr. Isabel Hoving. This thesis combines nuanced analysis with a strong commitment to social issues relating to nuclear energy and radioactive contamination, an issue of ever-increasing importance! The committee was impressed with Anna's ability to not only impact academic discussions but also bring her research outside academia.

Pao-Yi Yang wrote a dissertation on Framing China. Performativity and Narrative in Museum Displays of Chinese Porcelain, supervised by prof. dr. Kitty Zijlmans and prof. dr. Anne Gerritsen. Described as 'compelling’ and 'brilliant,', this dissertation sheds light on how Chinese porcelain is presented and framed in museums. It exposes the hidden ideological, political and gender traits of museum displays, which is relevant to museum practitioners, of course, but also to visitors who are made conscious of their particular viewing positions.

Tessa de Zeeuw wrote her dissertation under the supervision of prof. dr. Frans-Willem Korsten and dr. Yasco Horsman. As the title Postdramatic Legal theatres: space, body, media and genre suggests, Tessa undertook triangular reading involving legal cases, artistic texts and philosophical discussions. Her original and topical analyses shed light on the theatricality at work in jurisdiction. Apart from the numerous articles she has published, Tessa's research has also has a significant impact on teaching within LUCAS, both on the BA and MA levels, and this the jury highly commends.

The LUCAS Dissertation Prize

The LUCAS Dissertation Prize is annually awarded to the writer of the most outstanding PhD thesis defended in the previous academic year. In 2019 the winner was Muge Özoglu with a PhD thesis titled No Man's Land: Gender and Sexuality in Erotic Narratives of the Late Ottoman Empire. In 2020 there were two winners: Lieke Smits, Performing Desire: Bridal Mysticism and Medieval Imagery (c. 1000-1500) and Coen van ‘t Veer, De kolonie op drift. De representatie en constructie van koloniale identiteit in fictie over de zeereis tussen Nederland en Nederlands-Indië (1850-1940).

The jury consists of the members of the LUCAS Impact Committee: Andries Hiskes, Rick Honings, Olga van Marion, Sara Polak, Thijs Porck, Astrid van Weyenberg, and Casper de Jonge.

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