"The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History in Turku has awarded Dr. Elina Hankela from University of Helsinki the 2014 prize for outstanding research into religion. Dr. Hankela is awarded for her dissertation Challenging Ubuntu: Open doors and exclusionary boundaries in Johannesburg (2013).
Elina Hankela’s ethnographic research was conducted in downtown Johannesburg in 2009 where a Methodist church came to serve as a haven for thousands of refugees from Zimbabwe. The work highlights the conflicts that arose in the Church between members and dwellers as a result of the latter's massive presence in the church. The work is based on black liberation theology in dialogue with the African ethno-philosophy known as ubuntu , which is Zulu for humanity, humankind, and the moral dimension attached to ubuntu – what ultimately defines human beings. The Board of the Institute notes the following in its prize motivation:
'In this rich work, the author presents a nuanced discussion of the ethnographic method that is both humble and insightful. Her theoretical knowledge of sociological discourses of power, poverty and identity are remarkable. The analysis is characterised by the author's ability to discern and discuss the relevance to her unique material. The thesis is based on Hankela’s own primary data and displays great originality coupled with an equally high degree of relevance in a post-apartheid context influenced by migration, scarcity, xenophobia and conflict. This theoretical and social relevance reaches far beyond the Methodist Mission in Johannesburg. The interpretative analysis is theoretically anchored in the fields of critical sociology and the history of religions, and her interdisciplinary approach evokes inspiration and respect. In Hankela’s analysis the Church emerges as a microcosm where the fundamental question of our collective being in the world is addressed.'
The Donner Institute Prize is awarded annually for outstanding research into religion conducted at a Nordic university. It is intended for researchers in the field of religious studies for a significant and relatively newly published monograph or article in print or digital form. The prize sum is 5,000 Euros.
More information about the award-winning publication can be found at the website of University of Helsinki: https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/37901"