Prize recipient 2022 | Frederik Stjernfelt



Reason for awarding The Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize 2022 to Frederik Stjernfelt.

Professor Frederik Stjernfelt is not only one of the world’s leading semioticians; he also covers disciplines such as philosophy of science, literary theory, biosemiotics, history of ideas and political philosophy with great ease. Furthermore, he researches the intersections between freedom of expression, the public sphere, rights, digital media, religion, science and communication.

In addition to his great dedication to the conduction of basic research, Frederik Stjernfelt gladly continues taking on an admirable responsibility in disseminating his research beyond the academic community – to society at large. Thereby he continually shows that his research is of relevance to society and proves that there does not have to be a divide between specialised basic research and public interest and relevance.

Frederik Stjernfelt invests academic effort in pressing current issues. This is evident e.g. from his cooperation with novelist and intellectual Jens Martin Eriksen on the wars in Ex-Yugoslavia and his recent interest in the status of freedom of expression in modern democracies faced with pressure from radical religion, the culturalism of both left and right wings of current politics and, most lately, from the new conditions imposed on the digital world by tech giants. This also won him the Karen Blixen freedom of speech award in 2017 together with law scholar Jacob Mchangama.

In 2020, Frederik Stjernfelt together with Ulrik Langen and Henrik Horstbøl published the monumental book Grov Konfækt: Tre vilde år med trykkefrihed – 1770-73 in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the abolishment of censorship in Denmark in 1770. This publication received several awards.

Frederik Stjernfelt’s international recognition has brought him invitations to universities all over the world, and in the academic year 2021-22 he has been at RWTH Aachen (Germany), along with 10 other international fellows, working on the Humanity Contested Project.

Frederik Stjernfelt is an outstanding researcher, who spans an array of disciplines and has extensive experience with interdisciplinary projects. He works dedicatedly with concepts and affairs that are of great importance to the humanities and society at large and succeeds in making his research accessible and relevant for a broader audience. Thus, he is a frequent and dedicated participant in public debates. Frederik Stjernfelt has been one of the main drivers of studies of semiotics and free speech. He has a keen eye for the original. He is the Danish equivalent of Italy’s Umberto Eco and very much the man of the hour right now when freedom of speech is so much under pressure.

The Prize Committee


  • The President of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters Marie Louise Nosch, Professor, SAXO Institute - Archaeology, Ethnology, Greek & Latin, History, University of Copenhagen


International members within humanities and social sciences:

  • Joanna Story, Professor of Early Medieval History, University of Leicester
  • Heinrich Detering, Professor of Modern German Literature and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Göttingen

International members within the natural sciences:

  • Carol Robinson, Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford
  • Susanne Renner, Professor of Biology, Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis

Previous winners of the Carlsberg Foundation Research prize:

  • Mette Birkedal Bruun (2017), Professor, Section of Church History, University of Copenhagen
  • Andreas Roepstorff (2015), Professor, Director of the Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University
  • Poul Nissen (2018), Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University
  • Karl Anker Jørgensen (2017), Professor, Department of Chemistry, Aarhus University