In announcing the award, Alice Hunt, executive director of the American Academy of Religion, noted that “the award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the public understanding of religion by individuals whose work has a relevance and eloquence that speaks, not just to scholars, but more broadly to the public as well.”
Olupona is the author of five books and editor of six others. His research ranges across African spirituality and ritual practices. In detailing religious pluralism in Africa and African diasporic communities in the Americas, his focus includes the less-studied missionaries from Africa who have come to the United States to establish churches. In addition to his seminal scholarship that enhances understanding of the diversity and complexity of African religions, the Marty Award recognizes Olupona’s work for peace and understanding in Nigerian civic, academic, religious and political spheres.
The award recipient is selected by the American Academy of Religion’s Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion. Founded in 1909, the AAR is the world’s largest association of religion scholars with some 8,000 members in North America and abroad. Its mission is to foster excellence in the academic study of religion and enhance the public understanding of religion.