The annual Amsterdam Centre for Middle Eastern studies Thesis Prize awards ceremony took place on 7 December 2017. This year, the jury had the pleasure of shortlisting three BA theses and two MA theses for our Thesis Prize. The winners of this year's Prize were Akke de Hoog (BA), for her thesis on the Druze in Israel, and Dorieke Molenaar (MA), on the dynamics of religious authority on online forums.
This year, the jury consisted of:
The jury enjoyed reading all the shortlisted theses, but was unanimous in its decision on the winners, both in the BA and in the MA category. Akke de Hoog (BA, Religious Studies) wrote a thesis entitled ‘Druze in Israel. An analysis of how the establishment of the state of Israel has affected the Druze collective identity’.
The Druze are a small religious minority, whose faith contains elements of Islamic, Christian and Jewish tradition, and is known for its esoteric elements. They speak Arabic. Akke argues in this thesis that the Druze in Israel occupy a special position: they have a better position than Muslim and Christian Arabs, but a lesser one than their Jewish compatriots. The Druze collective identity, then, has become complex and multifaceted since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948.
The jury was impressed by Akke's discussion of the relevant theoretical literature. Her thesis is a well-structured, well-written study about a very interesting but highly complex topic.
Dorieke Molenaar (MA, Religious Studies) submitted her thesis 'Making and Breaking Religious Authority Online. Dynamics of religious authority, from discussions among young Dutch Muslims on Marokko.nl, along a network of websites, to offline Islamic centres'.
Dorieke has looked into the way Islamic religious authority is established and challenged online, specifically on the forum site Marokko.nl, and how this relates to the offline world. She has studied various forum threads and conducted interviews. She shows that young Muslims are actively trying to figure out – within their own abilities, and to their own standards – who is reliable and can be acknowledged as authority.
The jury was impressed with Dorieke's research, which is original and well carried out. Additionally, the thesis’ theoretical framework is very strong, and the relationship between the theoretical and empirical parts of her research are well drawn up. Dorieke ended her thesis with some very interesting suggestions for further research, of which the jury hopes she will start working on those in the near future!
The prizes consist of € 150 in book vouchers for the BA winner and € 250 in book vouchers plus a publication of an article based on the winning thesis in ZemZem for the MA winner. The Amsterdam Centre for Middle Eastern studies awards these prizes every year, for theses in the field of Middle Eastern studies, completed at the University of Amsterdam during the preceding academic year. Students and supervisors are encouraged to submit theses that have received a grade of 8 or higher. For more information on the ACMES Thesis Prize, see here.