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PhD student Fardo Eringa wins both Fulbright grant and Cultuurfonds scholarship

29 June 2018
Fardo Eringa

Our PhD student Fardo Eringa has received academic recognition not once but twice in recent months: on 30 May she was awarded a Fulbright grant in Leiden, and it was recently announced that on 5 July she will also receive a Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds scholarship during the presentation of the Young Talent Awards in Amsterdam. These achievements will make it possible for Fardo to travel to Rice University in Houston, Texas in the spring of 2019 as a visiting scholar in religion and popular culture.

Fardo Eringa completed her Master’s degree programme in Religion and the Public Domain with honours in 2015 with her thesis Being a Michael Jackson Pilgrim: dedicated to a never-ending journey about the phenomenon known as 'Michaeling'. This term refers to the practice of literally following in the footsteps of the King of Pop (who died in 2009), whereby fans make a pilgrimage that brings them closer in spirit to their idol. Fardo Eringa found that some fans actually see Michael Jackson as the new Messiah, ‘sent by God to show people what really matters, namely love. These “disciples” claim that Michael Jackson was persecuted like no other and that he suffered greatly as a result. However, this did not stop him from figh ting for his ideals and for his fans which, in their eyes, makes him a true martyr.’ In January 2016, her original Master’s thesis earned her the IASPM/KVNM Popular Music Thesis Prize.

PhD research on new forms of spirituality and pilgrimage

Since 2015, Fardo Eringa has been continuing her research as a PhD student in the Comparative Study of Religion at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, using ‘Michaeling’ as a case study for further research into pilgrimage, identity building and new forms of meaningfulness in the interplay with popular fan culture. In relation to her planned visit to the US, she told us, ‘The two grants will make it possible for me to spend the period from March to the end of May 2019 at Rice University in Houston, Texas as a visiting scholar in the field of religion and popular culture, under the guidance of Professors Jeffrey Kripal and Anthony Pinn. This exchange will give me the opportunity to conduct a combined analysis of American and European insights into the emergence of new forms of spirituality and pilgrimage in modern society. Then in June I will carry out fieldwork in Los Angeles during ‘Michael week’ – the week preceding the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death on 25 June, which was ten years ago this year. All sorts of commemorative activities have been organized, and I will spend two weeks in the company of MJ pilgrims. I will then write a dissertation about what I have learned both during my fieldwork and under the supervision of Kripal and Pinn.’

Fulbright grant and Cultuurfonds scholarship

The Fulbright award ceremony took place on 30 May in the Academiegebouw at the University of Leiden. Each year, the Netherlands-America Foundation (NAF) awards a number of grants to Dutch and American students and researchers via the Fulbright Center. This year, nine PhD Fulbright grants were awarded in total. Fardo Eringa was one of three PhD students from the University of Groningen to receive a PhD Fulbright award. The others were Annegien Langeloo and Mariëtte Hingstman. Their grants will allow these two PhD students to spend three months conducting research in the United States.

The presentation of the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds scholarships will take place during the Young Talent Awards ceremony on Thursday 5 July at 16.00 in the Compagnietheater in Amsterdam.

Last modified:16 July 2018 10.59 a.m.
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