Press release

Outstanding research on Arab modernism and Brazilian colonial history singled out

Reimar Lüst Awards for international scholarly and cultural exchange are granted jointly by the Humboldt Foundation and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.

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Portraits Sonja Mejcher-Atassi, Lilia Moritz Schwarcz
Sonja Mejcher-Atassi and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz
Saturn-ähnliches Dekortationsbild


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The Lebanon-based literary scholar Sonja Mejcher-Atassi and the Brazilian social anthropologist and historian Lilia Moritz Schwarcz have been chosen to receive this year’s Reimar Lüst Award. This award is granted to humanities scholars and social scientists from abroad who have shaped academic and cultural relations between Germany and their own countries. The award comes with €60,000. Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, in collaboration with the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, grants up to two Reimar Lüst Awards.

Sonja Mejcher-Atassi is Associate Professor of Modern Arabic and Comparative Literature in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. With her work on modern and contemporary Arabic literature, on the interrelations of word and image, literary history and book art, culture and politics, she has played a decisive role in bringing Arab modernism to the attention of the world. For example, in her latest book project she portrayed the Palestinian author, art critic and translator of Faulkner and Beckett, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, who is regarded as the “strong voice for Arab modernism”. But how can Arab modernism be made accessible to the research community and the public when parts of the archives have been destroyed or are endangered? For her work on the major Arab playwright Sa’dallah Wannous, Mejcher-Atassi was personally involved in the rescue of his private archive from Syria. As a Reimar Lüst Award winner, Mejcher-Atassi will conduct research at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies at Philipps Universität Marburg.

Lilia Moritz Schwarcz is a professor for social anthropology at the University of São Paulo in Brazil She is a university instructor, publisher and prominent intellectual figure in Brazil where she champions democracy, free science, culture and art. Her publications on Brazil’s colonial history have garnered several awards and have brought about a fundamental change in the understanding of the country’s history. The collaboration with Freie Universität Berlin will enable an important exchange between the award winner and German Latin America research on Brazilian history and culture and on the genesis of racism, archives in a global context, and post-colonial issues of the present day.

The astrophysicist Reimar Lüst who died last year served as President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation from 1989 to 1999. In appreciation of his life-long work to promote international exchange between scientists and scholars, the Humboldt Foundation established the Reimar Lüst Award for International Scholarly and Cultural Exchange in collaboration with the Fritz Thyssen Foundation in 2006.

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(Press release 13/2021)

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. The Foundation maintains an interdisciplinary network of well over 30,000 Humboldtians in more than 140 countries around the world – including 57 Nobel Prize winners.

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