Postdoc Position in Asian Studies/Environmental Humanities (Norway) Deadline: August 11, 2019

University of Oslo

Application Deadline

August 11, 2019

Program Commencement

November 01, 2019

Duration of the Program

3 Years

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Program Details

The Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo offers a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (SKO 1352) in Asian Studies/Environmental Humanities. The researcher will take part in the ERC-funded project Whales of Power: Aquatic Mammals, Devotional Practices, and Environmental Change in Maritime East Asia, led by Aike P. Rots.

Whales of Power is concerned with the comparative study of human-cetacean relations in maritime East Asia, as expressed in popular worship practices and beliefs. The project will examine several of these traditions in different parts of the region, through a combination of historical and ethnographic research. Marine mammals and associated worship practices serve as a prism through which we approach human responses to socio-economic and environmental change in Asian coastal communities. The project has three important theoretical objectives: 1) apply recent theoretical developments associated with “environmental humanities” to the comparative study of popular religion; 2) reconsider the role of local worship traditions in the Asian Secular Age, examining the new meanings attributed to ritual practices; and 3) contribute to a new comparative paradigm in Asian studies.

The research fellow will be responsible for Work Package 2, conducting in-depth research on one or two case studies in East and/or Southeast Asia. Applicants should frame their project proposals within the overall framework of the Whales of Power project, and be familiar with the project’s contents and objectives. The research may be historical, ethnographic, or a combination of the two. Possible research topics include the following:

  • A study of the changing meanings attributed to sacred river dolphins in the region, such as the baiji dolphin in the Yangtze and/or the Irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong, which are historically associated with river deities
  • An ethnographic study of Asian conservation initiatives centred on whales, dolphins, or other marine mammals, and the ways in which traditional notions of these animals as sacred or divine are employed today
  • A historical study of beliefs in whales as the incarnation or expression of maritime deities, for instance Cá Ông in Vietnam or Ebisu in Japan, and the modern transformations of such ideas and related worship practices
  • A study of the historical and contemporary significance of marine mammals in indigenous worship practices in the Asia-Pacific region, for instance among the Ainu, the Māori, or the people of Lembata.

The research should result in a monograph and one (or more) journal article(s). In addition, the research fellow will co-edit a special issue of an international peer-reviewed journal or edited volume, together with the project leader.

The successful candidate is expected to join the existing research milieu or network and contribute actively to its development. In addition to their respective work packages, s/he will take part in group activities such as the weekly “WhoP Lab” seminars, workshops, and excursions. Therefore, special emphasis will be placed on the candidate’s potential to contribute to the project as a whole, and on social and pedagogical skills. The main purpose of postdoctoral research fellowships is to qualify researchers for work in higher academic positions within their disciplines.

More information, here.

Eligibility/ Requirements

  • Ph.D. or equivalent academic qualifications with a specialization in Asian area studies, religious studies, social anthropology, environmental humanities, or a related discipline
  • A high-quality and original research proposal, which must be thematically and theoretically related to the overall Whales of Power project
  • Fluent oral and written communication skills in English
  • Excellent command of the Asian language(s) necessary for conducting the proposed research (depending on methodology, thematic and geographical focus, and source material)
  • Personal suitability and motivation for the position.

The doctoral dissertation must have been submitted for evaluation by the closing date. Appointment is dependent on the public defense of the doctoral thesis being approved.

Applicants who are or have previously been employed as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (SKO 1352) at the University of Oslo do not qualify for another Post-Doctoral fellowship. Such candidates are eligible for a position as Researcher (SKO 1109).

In the evaluation of the applications, emphasis will be placed on:

  • The project’s scientific merit, relevance and innovation
  • The applicant’s estimated academic and personal ability to carry out the project within the allotted time frame
  • The candidate’s potential to contribute to Whales of Power as a whole, and willingness to take part in academic group work
  • Previous research experience
  • Good co-operative skills, and the ability to successfully join in academic collaboration within and across disciplines.

Application Process

The application must include

  • Application letter describing the applicant’s qualifications and motivation for the position
  • Curriculum Vitae, listing academic degrees, previous positions, teaching experience, administrative experience and other qualifying activities
  • List of publications
  • Project description (approximately 5 pages). The project description must present a feasible progress plan. It is expected that the applicant will be able to complete the project during the period of appointment
  • Up to three previous academic works (e.g. published journal articles) that the applicant wishes to be considered
  • Copies of educational certificates (PhD and MA)

Please note that all documents must be in English or a Scandinavian language, except for academic works submitted for consideration, which may also be in German or French.

The application with attachments must be delivered in the university’s electronic recruiting system. Please follow this link. Applicants with education from a foreign university must attach an explanation of their university’s grading system.

The short-listed candidates will be invited for an interview in late August. 

For more information about Whales of Power, see the project website. If you have any questions, please contact the project leader, Aike Rots:

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