As of September 2018, Dr Brenda Mathijssen has been appointed Assistant Professor of Psychology, Culture & Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen. She will teach course units in religion, health and wellbeing. In addition, she will conduct research focusing on two central themes: human attitudes to death and the role of ethnic-cultural and religious diversity in relation to health and welfare.
Brenda Mathijssen was awarded a PhD by Radboud University Nijmegen (Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies) in 2017 for research into the way in which recently bereaved people in the Netherlands try to find, create and assign meaning to the death of a loved one. She studied the rituals and situational religious beliefs of Roman Catholic, Protestant and non-faith people during the funeral and mourning process, examining the role these aspects played in the meaning they assigned to the death of their loved ones. The main thread running through her research was the Dutch context; the changed role of religion, the current focus on the individual and the fact that cremation is now the dominant form of funeral service. Over the past year, Brenda has worked as a postdoc researcher at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom analysing the needs of various established minority groups and recent migrants with regard to dying, death and grief.
In Groningen, Brenda will teach the psychology part of the Psychology and Sociology of Religion course unit for Bachelor’s students of Theology and Religious Studies. In addition, a new Master’s degree programme in Religion, Health and Wellbeing is due to start this year; she will teach this subject and the course unit Healing, Possession, Illness in the Master's programme in Spiritual Care, as well as part of the methods course unit Conducting research on Religion, Health and Wellbeing. Brenda will also supervise students writing theses. Her research at the UG focuses on two main topics: on the one hand, human attitudes to death, and on the other hand, the role of ethnic-cultural and religious diversity in relation to health and wellbeing. ‘My research revolves around people and I'm looking forward to continuing it in Groningen,’ says the new assistant professor.
Brenda explained her research plans in more detail: ‘Over the next few years, I intend to expand my research agenda in Groningen and make a contribution to the Department of Comparative Study of Religion and the Department of Religious Psychology & Spiritual Care. My research will still revolve around human attitudes to death, but I will concentrate on diversity in relation to health and wellbeing. The ways that people perceive health and the words and meanings they assign to wellbeing are affected by intersectional factors, such as religion, ethnicity, gender or age. But how does this work? We need a broader understanding of diversity in research into psychology, culture & religion and into health and wellbeing. This will also be useful to professionals working in the field, such as spiritual carers, nurses, funeral directors and other care workers.’
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