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Research Centre for Religious Studies Research Centres Centre for Religion and Heritage Organisation

Staff and Fellows


Dr. Andrew J. M. Irving

Dr. Andrew J. M. Irving: ‘I research medieval religious material cultures. My research explores what we can learn about the nature of religion and belief by the study of things, spaces, and practices; it asks what is the relationship between the made/used religious object and its maker/user. My particular expertise lie in the books, objects, spaces, and practices of medieval liturgy. I am especially interested in the materiality of the medieval religious book – gospel books, mass books, prayer books - and what changes in design and traces and use of these book-objects can tell about the communities that used them.’

Associate Director

Dr. Mathilde van Dijk
Van Dijk

Dr. Mathilde van Dijk: ‘I am a cultural historian, specializing in the Middle Ages, particularly in the history of Late Medieval Reform and gender. Heritage is a recurrent theme in my work, for instance in my project on the appropriation of the Church Fathers and my work on the re-use of Early Church saints. In addition, I study the re-use of the late medieval reform movements such as the Devotio Moderna and Humanism as markers of contemporary Dutch culture and spirituality. Finally, I work on medievalism and popular culture, more specifically in film and television.

Watch this video with information on the Centre for Religion and Heritage and the research projects of Dr. Mathilde van Dijk.


Prof. dr. Todd H. Weir

Prof. Dr. Todd H. Weir is Associate Professor of History of Christianity and Modern Culture: ‘I am a cultural and intellectual historian of modern Germany and of the transnational history of religion and secularism. Before coming to Groningen in 2016, I taught history for nine years at Queen’s University Belfast. My research has focused on various aspects of the interaction of Christianity and secularism. I published a study on Secularism and Religion in Nineteenth Century Germany: The Rise of the Fourth Confession in 2014 for Cambridge University Press (Winner of the Jacques Barzun Prize for Cultural History of the American Philosophical Society). I have an abiding interest in conversion and apologetics. My next major research project will be a transnational history of the term worldview/Weltanschauung from 1790 to the present.


Dr. Lieke Wijnia

Lieke Wijnia (1985) is affiliated as postdoc with the CRH, where she runs the research cluster “Art and religious heritage”. She works as chief organizer for the international conference “Religious Heritage in a Diverse Europe”, which takes place in June 2019 in Groningen. Furthermore, she is co-convener of the international research network “Visionary Artists, Visionary Objects (1800-now)”, together with Dr. Naomi Billingsley (Manchester University), and she is co-editor of the volume “The Bible and Global Tourism” (Bloomsbury Press), together with Dr. James Bielo (Miami University, Ohio).

In her research, she applies interdisciplinary methods in studying the dynamics between artistic practices, contemporary manifestations of religion, and cultural heritage. In 2016, she cum laude defended her PhD dissertation on contemporary perceptions of the sacred during festival Musica Sacra Maastricht, at Tilburg University. She received an MA Art History at the Courtauld Institute, London (2008), an MA Heritage Studies at Utrecht University (2007, cum laude), and a BA in Humanities at University College Utrecht (2003, cum laude).

Dr. Maaike de Jong
De Jong

Maaike de Jong (1969) contributes to knowledge about heritage, museums and tourism to the research and teaching activities of the CRH. De Jong was trained at the UvT / University of Amsterdam and earned her Ph.D. from Utrecht University in 2014 with a dissertation on the complexity of cultural identity and belonging. Her publications include “Implications for Managed Visitor Experiences at Muktinath Temple (Chumig Gyatsa) in Nepal;” “Native American Objects, Tourism, and Museums. A De-Reterritorialized View;” “The Museum as Visitor Experience: Displaying Sacred Haitian Vodou objects,” among others. De Jong is a Senior Lecturer at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences and an Assistant Professor in Sustainable Entrepreneurship at the University of Groningen, Campus Fryslân. Moreover, she is a member of the Professorship in Sustainable innovation in the Regional Knowledge Economy (NHL Stenden University & Alfa-college).

De Jong is currently conducting research which intends to contribute to sustainable development within fields that are relevant to heritage, museums, and tourism. She develops and participates in research projects with national and international scholars and other stakeholders. Currently, she focuses on three themes using applied philosophy and critical theory. The following themes discuss how communities engage with questions that involve heritage, cultural identity, and belonging:

  1. Research on collection ethics and responsibility. Museum representation: housing, care, and restitution of museums’ sensitive collections. Dialogue with source communities (Museum of the Rockies, Quai Branly Museum, Tropenmuseum, Néprajzi Múzeum)
  2. Heritage as a driver of sustainable development and communities (Veenhuizen & Frederiksoord)
  3. Museums as platforms for sustainable cities and communities (Humboldt Forum, Museum of Boulder, District Six Museum)

De Jong aims at opening up discussions about heritage, museum (collections), and tourism in new ways through these projects. She also wants to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals on issues such as ‘sustainable cities and regions’ and ‘multi-stakeholder partnerships.’

Dr. Eelco Nagelsmit

Eelco Nagelsmit (1982) is affiliated as a fellow with the Centre for Religion and Heritage. His interdisciplinary research focuses on the historical functions of art and architecture in their cultural, political and religious contexts, and is most concerned with the capacity of art to transform the beholder. In 2014 he received his PhD from the universities of Ghent and Leiden with a dissertation on art and architecture as “agents of change” in Counter-Reformation Brussels. Having held the positions of postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen (2013-2016) and scientific assistant at ETH Zurich (2017), he is currently affiliated with the Department of the History of Art, Architecture and Landscape at the University of Groningen. As NWO VENI-laureate, he pursues his research project “Divine Denkraum: Early Modern Protestant Princes and Theologians Exchanging Thoughts through Things”. He teaches in the University Minor “Art and Religion” for which he developed the course “Multimedia Scripture: Displaying the Word of God after the Reformation” together with Dr. Andrew Irving. With Dr. Lieke Wijnia he is involved in setting up a platform for sharing knowledge about religious heritage between academics and museum professionals.

Tharik Hussain

Tharik Hussain (1979) is affiliated as a fellow with the Centre for Religion and Heritage. He is an author, journalist, broadcaster and consultant specialising in Muslim heritage and culture. Tharik’s work often serves to decolonise authorised and popular religious and cultural histories and narratives by working closely with academic and grassroots institutions.

For example, he has created Britain’s first Muslim heritage trails ‘The Woking Trail’ and ‘The Muslim Cemetery Walk’; edited a special revival edition of the historic British Muslim journal, ‘The Islamic Review’; and helped to develop Muslim-Jewish heritage trails with the University of Oxford and JTrails. He has also producing award-winning radio on America’s earliest mosques and Muslim communities, written variously about the indigenous Muslim cultures of countries like Romania, Lithuania and Thailand, and is an author at Lonely Planet. Tharik is currently working on his book ‘Minarets in the Mountains; a Journey into Muslim Europe’, about following in the footsteps of Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi in search of Europe’s indigenous Muslim culture.

Tharik has been named one of the UK's most inspiring British Bangladeshis and is an advisor to the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, the Institute of Islamic Art Thailand and a number of heritage projects around the world. He received an MA in Islamic Studies from the University of London, a BA(hons) in Media and Cultural Studies from Middlesex University and is a qualified Further Education Lecturer (PGCE FE) with almost two decades of teaching experience.

Paul Ariese

Paul Ariese (1975) is a fellow at the Center for Religion and Heritage, with which he works closely in the context of the Network Religious Heritage. Ariese is a senior lecturer in the international Master’s programme Applied Museum and Heritage Studies and the Bachelor’s programme Cultural Heritage at the Reinwardt Academy (Amsterdam University of the Arts), where he lectures on heritage and religion, among other subjects.

Currently Ariese is pursuing a PhD degree at the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (University of Amsterdam). The topic of his research is the intertwining of religious and heritage practices at the synagogues of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam. The question is what religious meanings, sensations and experiences are evoked in people today by the Portuguese Synagogue (both a heritage site and place of worship) and the musealised space of the Great Synagogue. This empirical research explores how Sephardic and Ashkenazic source communities, heritage professionals and museum audiences interpret, shape and use these spaces. The case study provides insight into the interaction between religion and heritage, paving a path to reposition Jewish religious heritage in the increasingly secular and pluriform Dutch society.

Ariese has been involved in numerous projects for museums and heritage institutions all over the Netherlands, as well as museum projects and museum capacity building programmes in the Middle East, East Africa, and South(east) Asia. He is a graduate of the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies (MA with distinction) and also trained as an architectural and graphic designer.

Last modified:10 October 2023 4.00 p.m.
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