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University of Bayreuth, Press release no. 160/2023 from 21/11/2023

University of Bayreuth graduate receives Bavarian Culture Prize

Dr Benedikt Römer, a graduate of the University of Bayreuth, has been awarded the Bavarian Culture Prize in the science category by Bayernwerk AG. He accepted the award at a festive evening event hosted by Bayernwerk on 16 November 2023 at the Eisbach Studios in Munich. The religious studies scholar, who worked in the junior research group "Contemporary Islamic Cultures" until autumn 2022, was honoured for his dissertation entitled "Elam in Exile: Religion and Nation among Iranian Christians in the Diaspora".

Prize winner Dr Benedikt Römer with the Bavarian Minister of Arts and Science Markus Blume (l.) and Bayernwerk CEO Dr Egon Leo Westphal (r.)

Dr Benedikt Römer's dissertation examines the growing community of Persian-speaking evangelical Christians in Iran since the 1990s. This community has experienced considerable repression by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, prompting many to emigrate into exile and found Persian-speaking diaspora churches there. The work analyses publications and media productions of these exile churches, in particular five magazine series and 70 hours of video material, in order to examine the conceptions of an "Iranian-Christian" national identity. Iranian evangelical Christians reinterpret central aspects of Iranian cultural heritage and thus externalise the claim of Iranian Christianity to a firm place in Iran's national self-image. A further focus of the thesis is to examine the link between religious practice and exile, with Iranian evangelicals seeing their expulsion as part of a divine plan that could lead to a return to Iran or the 'Christianisation' of Iran. The dissertation offers a unique insight into the religious landscape and complexities of the Iranian evangelical community and thus contributes to a better understanding of this issue.

"Working in the junior research group at the University of Bayreuth was a very formative time for me. I am very grateful for the support and supervision I received from Prof Paula Schrode and Dr Benjamin Weineck," says the Bayreuth prizewinner. After the end of his work in the BMBF-funded junior research group "Contemporary Islamic Cultures" at the University of Bayreuth, Dr Römer moved to the newly founded Institute of Cultural Studies at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich. Here he works as a research assistant at the Chair of Religious Studies, specialising in Islam.

About the award ceremony:
Bayernwerk AG, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022, has honoured a total of 33 graduates and doctoral students from Bavarian colleges and universities with a cultural award in the science category this year. The prizes are endowed with 2,000 euros each. At the award ceremony on 16 November, all prizewinners received the bronze statue "Gedankenblitz" (Flash of Thought) sculpted by Schwandorf sculptor Peter Mayer.

Jennifer Opel

Jennifer Opel (on maternity/parental leave)Deputy Press & PR Manager

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