Article 2 of the Constitution of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation reads as follows: “Within the context of the cultural traditions of Europe in general and the ideas of Erasmus in particular, the aim of the Foundation is to enhance the position of the humanities, the social sciences and the arts. The emphasis lies on tolerance, cultural diversity and non-dogmatic, critical thinking. The Foundation tries to achieve this aim by awarding prizes and by organizing events that draw attention to the work and vision of the laureates. A cash prize is awarded under the name of ‘Erasmus Prize’.” In accordance with this article, the Board of the Foundation has decided to award the Erasmus Prize 2018 to the American writer and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich.
The Prize is awarded to her on the following grounds:
As a pioneer in the genre of immersive journalism, she is commended for her courage in putting herself on the line in her journalistic work. By leading the life of people in precarious situations and reporting on what she calls ‘a world apart’ in a most lucid and penetrating way, she brings to the fore the concerns of groups in society whose voices would otherwise remain unheard.
As a writer, Ehrenreich unites scientific analysis with literary elegance and a sobering sense of humor. Her ability to give life to what would otherwise remain cold statistics, opens our eyes in a most thought-provoking manner.
Whether dealing with the labor market, the healthcare system or the fragility of the middle class, she shows how myth making and positive thinking divert us from reality. In her work she points out that such an approach reduces structural societal problems to being the result of individual shortcomings. This message is also becoming ever more relevant in today’s Europe.
She proves to be an inspiration to other journalists in both content and method. Having created the tools for future generations of journalists, she has also actively committed herself to mentoring and supporting them by founding her ‘Economic Hardship Reporting Project’.
Ehrenreich proves to be an advocate of critical thinking and fact-finding, at the same time motivated by empathy and social activism. She thus embodies the Erasmian ideals championed by the Foundation.