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Bard College Professor Ian Buruma Wins 2008 Erasmus Prize

Journalist, Author, and Political Commentator Wins Prestigious International Award for Exceptional Contribution to Culture In Europe

Darren O'Sullivan
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. — The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has awarded its 2008 Erasmus Prize to Ian Buruma, Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College. Founded in 1958 by his Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the Erasmus Prize is awarded annually to a person who, within the cultural traditions of Europe, has made an especially important contribution to culture, society, or social science in Europe. The prize money is a sum of 150,000 euros. A renowned journalist, author, and political commentator, Buruma was born in 1951 in The Hague, The Netherlands. His books include Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, Behind the Mask, The Wages of Guilt, Anglomania, and Bad Elements. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, Guardian, Financial Times, and other publications in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The Foundation praised Buruma as “one of the leading international essayists on East-West relations” and “a sharp journalist, author, and critic,” and for exemplifying the theme, “The New Cosmopolitan,” which the foundation has chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the award. “‘The New Cosmopolitan’ is a citizen of a new world, in which boundaries of all sorts are easily transcended; where people of diverse cultures work together readily and experience economic and cultural exchange as intrinsic,” the Foundation writes. “The new world citizen likes to picture a world without hindrances, but is forced to confront societal realities, where identity is frequently defined by traditional differences such as nationality, culture, religion or ethnic origins.” The official award ceremony of the Erasmus Prize will take place on November 7 in Rotterdam. Previous laureates of the Erasmus Prize include Charlie Chaplin (1965), Henry Moore (1968), Claude Lévi-Strauss (1973), Václav Havel (1986), Bernard Haitink (1991), Simon Wiesenthal (1992), Jacques Delors (1997), Hans van Manen (2000), and Alan Davidson (2003). After studying Chinese in Leiden and Japanese film in Tokyo, Ian Buruma became cultural editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review and foreign editor of The Spectator. Since 2003, he is Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College in New York. He was chairman of the Humanities Centre of the Central European University in Budapest, fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington D.C. He is a member of the scientific advisory council of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam and a board member of Human Rights in China in New York. He has written about Japan, China, and Asia and their often problematic relationships with the West. His book Murder in Amsterdam, on the murder of Theo van Gogh, was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for the Best Current Interest Book. In 2004, he received a honorary doctorate from the University of Groningen. In 2008, he will hold the Cleveringa-chair at the University of Leiden and will be professorial fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden. The Erasmus Prize derives its name and inspiration from the Dutch humanist scholar, Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536). A renowned theologian and teacher, Erasmus was a true world citizen; his view of life was universal: knowledge must prevail over ignorance, order over chaos, and humaneness is of greater value than any dogma. Erasmus defended the integrity of the intellect and pleaded for moderation and tolerance. Praise of Folly is one of his best known works. For more information on Ian Buruma, go to or contact Darren O’Sullivan in the public relations office at Bard College at 845-758-7649 or For more information on the Erasmus Prize, go to (1.23.08)

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This event was last updated on 06-05-2008