Jan Platvoet

Born in Oldenzaal, in 1935, I did my secondary education (gymnasium alpha) at the Mi­nor Seminary of the Society for African Missions (Societas Missionum ad Afros, SMA) from 1948 to 1954; and my training in RC (Philosophy and) Theology at its Major Sem­i­nary from 1954 to 1961, after which I was ordained to the priesthood. After a ʽPastoral Yearʼ in Win­­neba, Ghana, from November 1961 to July 1962, with daily lessons in Twi, a major Akan dialect,  I was appointed to St. Teresaʼs Minor Seminary at Amisano near Elmina to teach History. Some of those I taught are now in high positions: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Ap­piah Turkson is one of them; another is the Archbishop of Cape Coast, Matthias Kobena Nket­siah. Again others are the retired Archbishop of Kumasi, Thomas Kwaku Men­sah, and the Bishop of Ko­non­go-Mam­pong, Dr. Joseph Osei-Bonsu.

My next assignment was the study of Missiology and Anthropology of Religions at the RC University at Nijmegen, from September 1966 to March 1969. While at Nij­me­gen, I also applied for dispensation from the celibacy, which was granted in Febru­a­ry 1969. On 15 April 1969, I married An Mercx, a midwife and nurse who had served at Assin-Foso RC Hospital from 1961 to 1965, and at Elmina from 1965 to 1966.

In May 1969, I was offered the post of Junior Lecturer in the Study of Religions at the KTHU, one the five RC KIWTOs, into which the former odd-forty Dutch RC Ma­jor Semi­na­ries had merged. At the time of my ap­pointment, 1.08.1969, KTHU was relo­cat­ed at the Uithof, the new out-of-campus of U­trecht University, for a trial period of near fusion in teaching and research with the Faculty of Theology of Utrecht Universi­ty. Being the only gods­dienstwetenschapper on the KTHU staff, I was seconded to the vak­groep Gods­dienst­wetenschap of the UU Faculty of Theology and assigned classes on pre­literate reli­gions for the unified body of stu­dents, RC as well as those of the other de­nominations (NH, Baptist, Oud-Katholieken) that took part in that ecu­men­ical venture.

I re­sume­d my study of Twi, and the critical study of the history of the ethno­graphy of Akan religion, and began to teach seminars (werkgroepen) in the comparative study of religions on subjects such as prophets in Africa, spirit possession, and pilgrimage, with an emphasis on re­search of rituals. I obtained my PhD at Utrecht University in March 1982. The Utrecht Faculty of Theology commissioned me to teach a course on ʽATRʼ, the indigenous religions of Africa, for six weeks each year at the Uni­ver­sity of Zim­babwe (UZ) from 1985 to 1988.

As Secretary of the Nederlands Genootschap voor Godsdienst­we­ten­schap (NGG) from 1986 to 1991, I took part in June 1988 as NGG-delegate in the meet­­ing of the In­ter­national Committee of the International Association for the His­­tory of Re­li­gions (IAHR-IC), at Marburg, in which I also presented a paper on the study of reli­gi­ons in Af­rica south of the Sahara. It caused the IAHR Executive to request that I de­velop ways and means by which scholars of religions in (mostly the Anglophone) uni­ver­sities in Af­ri­ca might be gathered into a continent-wide, IAHR-affiliated association for study of re­li­gions. To that purpose, Jim Cox, then a lecturer at UZ, and I organized an IAHR-spon­sored conference on the study of re­li­gions in African uni­ver­si­ties at UZ in Harare in Sep­tember 1992. The Af­ri­can Association for the Study of Religions (AASR) was found­ed at that conference. It was formally admitted to the IAHR as a ʽregionalʼ affili­ate in 1995 at the IAHR congress in Mexico City. AASR has been a major part of my aca­­dem­ic life ever since. It is a continental as well as a global association for the study of the religions of Africa and its Diaspora.

Another major development in my academic career occurred in late 1990 when Lam­mert Leertouwer, newly appointed as rector magnificus of Leiden University, in­vit­ed me to take over, as UHD, his teaching and research duties at the Leiden Faculty of Theology, thereby offering me the academic promotion which KTU, at the directives of the Dutch RC episcopate, had always denied me as a ʽmarried priestʼ.

I retired from Leiden University on July 1, 2000. Since then, our three sons have married. We are now a family of fifteen with seven grandchildren. In as far as my duties as husband, father and grandfather, and my age permit, I continue to be engaged in aca­demic work.

Honorary fellow
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