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Manuela Kalsky appointed as Professor by special appointment on the Karen Armstrong Chair

26 January 2023

Dr Manuela Kalsky starts on 1 February as Professor by special appointment in the Karen Armstrong Chair for Religion, Values and Societal Transformations. This new special chair at the University of Humanistic Studies was established by the Nieuw Wij Foundation (New Us) and is funded by the Woudschoten Foundation. Karen Armstrong: “It is an honour for me to give my name to this new professorial Chair.”

The new chair focuses on giving meaning and promoting dialogue between people with different philosophical views in Dutch society. The focus is on which ideological values can contribute to the 'good life for all' in a modern society characterised by secularisation, individualisation and technologisation.

Karen Armstrong: “In our troubled world, religion cannot be a purely academic study; it must express practically and prophetically the profound wisdom that the great world faiths have, at their best, developed over the centuries, reminding us of the perennial need for compassion, justice, and reverence for both the human race and the natural world.”

In her work, Manuela Kalsky has been focusing for many years on how to connect differences in philosophical, ethnic and gender terms. Kalsky: "I want to move from an 'either-or' to an 'and-and' society, where there is room for differences." Connect the differences is also the motto of, the journalistic platform she founded in 2008 in cooperation with the Ministry of VROM and led as director until 2017. "On this journalistic dialogue platform, we look for those connections with the help of a broad social and academic network, from lived experience and reliable academic knowledge."


Manuela Kalsky: "I want to investigate whether, and if so which values from philosophical traditions can be meaningful in this respect. For example, is transparency a new value? Inspired by the Enlightenment, we think that reason should permeate everything and make it transparent. It is an often-heard demand in political debate. As a result, mystery disappears. What does this mean? There is also the question of whether the concept of 'inclusion' actually does justice to the actual diversity in our society. Important questions in the social debate."

She continued: "Naturally, I am very honoured to develop research at a chair, which bears the name of Karen Armstrong. She is an acclaimed author and researcher who writes best-selling books on religious/philosophical issues and thus manages to convey academic knowledge to a wide audience. Connecting lived praxis and academic reflection is what I am all about."

The special chair will be hosted by the Humanism and Social Resilience research group. Chair and professor Anja Machielse: "Manuela Kalsky's work is an important addition to our research on humanistic values and the possibilities of making social and cultural structures in society more just and caring."

About Manuela Kalsky

Dr Manuela Kalsky is a theologian and held the Edward Schillebeeckx chair at VU University Amsterdam from 2012 to 2022, where, among other things, she led an NWO research programme on 'Multiple religious belonging' in collaboration with Prof Dr A. van der Braak. As director of the Dominican Study Centre for Theology and Society (DSTS), she led multidisciplinary research programmes at the intersection of religion and society. 

In 2008, she founded the interfaith dialogue platform in cooperation with the Ministry of VROM, which she led as director until 2017. Kalsky held teaching assignments in Hamburg, Vienna, Hanover and Fribourg. She was for many years a member of the 'theological eleven' of daily newspaper Trouw and is a popular speaker in the media and at conferences at home and abroad on current social issues in relation to meaning and religion.

Dr Manuela Kalsky starts on 1 February as Professor by special appointment in the Karen Armstrong Chair for Religion, Values and Societal Transformations.