German Foundation Awards Two €250,000 Prizes To Hebrew University Researchers In Humanities And Social Sciences

Jerusalem, February 4, 2013 — Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has awarded two Hebrew University of Jerusalem faculty members the Anneliese Maier Research Award and granted each a 250,000 EUR prize to continue their research. Named for a historian and philosopher who studied the development of modern science, the award will fund the Israelis’ collaboration with their German research partners over a five-year period. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation promotes academic cooperation between excellent scientists and scholars from abroad and from Germany.

The Hebrew University was the only institution whose faculty won two of this year’s seven awards. A total of 54 humanities and social science researchers from 26 countries were nominated for the award. The seven winners hailed from countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, India, and the United States. Nominations were submitted by academic collaboration partners at German universities and research institutions.

The Hebrew University faculty members are Michal Biran, the Max and Sophie Mydans Foundation Professor in the Humanities and director of the Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian Studies, and Eva Illouz, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology who is currently serving as president of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

Prof. Michal Biran is an internationally renowned specialist in the field of Eurasian history from the 10th to 14th Centuries. Her research collaboration with the University of Bonn is intended to promote academic exchange between Germany, Israel and Mongolia and help strengthen Eurasian history as a research topic. Prof. Biran’s transcultural historical research of the Mongol Empire enabled her to bridge the gap between Sinologists, Mongolists and Islamic scholars, and her publications have become standard reference works on the Mongol and Pre-Mongol periods.

"I welcome the opportunity to build collaborations with leading researchers from around the world,” said Prof. Biran. “In addition the award will allow me to build a school for comparative studies of empires together with Prof. Yuri Pines from the Department of East Asian Studies, and colleagues in Berlin and Bonn."

Prof. Eva Illouz one of the world’s leading sociologists, examining the influence of modern culture and capitalism on relationship behavior. Her research interests include the sociology of emotions and the effect of mass media on emotional patterns. With colleagues at Frankfurt University she will be conducting research into the philosophical and sociological aspects of “authenticity” in present-day culture. Prof. Illouz’s books on diverse topics that have been translated into 15 languages. In October 2012, she was named the first-ever female president of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and design.

"This is a wonderful surprise,” said Prof. Illouz. “The award will allow me to expand the scope of my research, but the main significance for me is the opportunity to work closely with Prof. Dr. Axel Honneth, the heir and most significant representative of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, and together we hope to offer a new perspective on the sociological and philosophical significance of the concept of authenticity."

The grants are funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research, to contribute to the internationalization of the humanities and social sciences in Germany. The grants are awarded in all fields of the humanities, social science, cultural science, law and economics.

Hebrew University president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson said, "These awards reflect the continued flourishing of the vital cooperation between Israel and Germany in research and higher education. The cooperation between outstanding Hebrew University researchers and their German counterparts brings tangible benefits to both our countries and the world."

In January, a new brain research center involving Israeli and German scientists was inaugurated in Jerusalem. The Max Planck-Hebrew University Center for Sensory Processing of the Brain in Action brings together as partners the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany, and the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University. Special emphasis will be placed on promoting young Israeli and German scientists through fellowships and joint research programs.