Scholarship holders 2021

BA Sagy Watemberg Izraeli, cotutelle Doctoral Researcher, the Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University and the Study of Religions, Åbo Akademi University (12 months)

Sagy Watermberg Izraeli received her BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her doctoral research asks what defines membership in religious communities in multicultural contexts, from the internal perspective of the communities themselves? This research investigates the paradoxical situation of religious women as members obligated to communities’ norms but lacking in legitimacy to claim norms. It will offer a novel conceptualisation of membership in religious communities in multicultural contexts by providing an analytical model for researching the paradoxical situation of religious women in differing religious communities and states. The study relies on three methodological pillars. First, the development of a theory of membership founded in an emic standpoint that recognises the heterogeneity of members in a religious community. Second, application of the theory to an empirical test case of Israeli Jewish women. Third, a typology of the tacit institutionalisation of stratified memberships within Israel’s laws and policies. Her additional interests include social epistemology, socio-legal studies, theories of gender, Jewish law, religious hermeneutics, and inter-religious feminism.


MA Sawsan Kheir, double degree PhD candidate, Study of Religions, Åbo Akademi University and School of Psychological Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel (6 months)

 Sawsan’s doctoral dissertation focuses on contemporary reflections of modernization processes in the religious worldviews and values of Muslims and the Druze of Israel. Specifically, it explores the religious subjectivities and value profiles of young adult Muslim and Druze students in Israel, separately and comparatively, as two religious and ethnic minorities facing a struggle between traditionalism and modernization. Of particular interest for her research are the religious and cultural differences between these minorities. This also in terms of their political position towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which affects their levels of involvement in the Israeli society, and their relations with their larger religious communities abroad. The research data were collected as part of a mixed-methods research project, Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective (YARG), which used Schwartz’s Portrait Values Questionnaire, the Faith-Q-Sort-method and semi-structured interviews. Currently, together with colleagues from the University of Haifa and Åbo Akademi University, Sawsan is leading a research project focusing on the relations between meaning making processes, wellbeing and sense of agency during the COVID-19 pandemic, among Israeli, Finnish and Turkish adults. Data from this project will also be included in her dissertation.


MA Joel Mansikka, Study of Religions, Åbo Akademi University (6 months)

My research concerns methods for studying narrative video games and religion. Religion and video games can be approached in vastly different ways depending on the scholarly focus and the video game genre in question. My primary focus is on the methodological differences in studying video games, as opposed to literature, film and TV-series. I consider narrative video games to be cultural objects capable of mediating and reflecting contemporary ideas in themselves like any other popular culture medium. The methods of accessing and analysing religious content within video games, however, require further research, which my study focuses on. My research connects studies within religion and popular culture with video game studies, while maintaining a humanistic view of video games as cultural products.

MA Anoo Niskanen, Study of Religions, Åbo Akademi University (6 months)

I am a doctoral student in the study of religions at Åbo Akademi University since the autumn of 2019 and have graduated from University of Gothenburg, Linnaeus University and University of Gävle. I was born and raised in Sweden, but have my roots in Finland. I work, among other things, as an interpreter between Finnish, Swedish and Burmese/Myanmar. In my dissertation project, processes around identity creation and lived religion among Swedish-Finnish conservative laestadians are examined, to see how faith and identity are formulated and constructed among current and former members of one of the Associations of Peace (fridsförening/rauhanyhdistys) which is a part of the Swedish central organization of conservative laestadians, SFC.


MA Mattias Rosenfeldt, Department of Theology, Uppsala University (6 months)

Liberal and progressive accomplishments within Islamic theology have – until recently – been a purely intellectual endeavor. In the past decade, however, a number of progressive mosques, have seen the light of day – independently establishing Muslim communities in urban areas across Western Europe. In terms of research, this gradual institutionalization of liberal and progressive Islamic intellectualism offers a new and unexplored reality. This research project has two primary purposes. The first is to provide a detailed, comparative description of the theological foundations characterizing three of Europe’s progressive mosques. The goal here is to reach a comprehensive understanding of sources to theological knowledge as well as the themes and narratives in focus. The second is to relate these findings to existing normative conceptual understandings of progressive Islam on the one hand and notions of modern Islamic university theology on the other. Potential contributions from the project include 1) an empirical contribution that advances our sociological and theological understanding of a rising movement in Europe’s Islamic landscape; 2) a conceptual contribution to the normative understanding of progressive Islam; and 3) a theoretical contribution to formative debates on Islamic university theology in the 21st century.