PhD scholarships on Political Concepts at University of Aberdeen

Projects on Spinoza, and related figures from the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophy, are welcome.


Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD positions at the University of Aberdeen

Political Concepts in the World – The ‘social’ beyond the ‘political’?

The University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme, is delighted to offer six Early Stage Researcher (PhD) positions, lasting 3 years starting in September 2018, for ground-breaking research on how political concepts, such as nation, citizenship, civil society and rule of law, are used in the world.

ESRs will complete a PhD with an inter-disciplinary supervisory team and benefit from a world-class training programme, including placements with one or more of our 23 international partners.  They will also actively participate in the activities of the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and the Rule of Law (CISRUL). We welcome applicants from across the social sciences and humanities, including anthropology, cultural and literary studies, education, history, legal theory and socio-legal studies, philosophy, politics, religious studies, sociology, and theology.

ESRs will be employed by the University on a salary of £26,075 per annum, and will be eligible for a range of additional benefits including ample travel and research funding.

One of the topics that we invite applicants to consider is The ‘social’ beyond the ‘political’? The topic builds on debates of recent years in social and political theory by considering the concept of the ‘political’ itself. On the one hand, a range of scholars have drawn on Carl Schmitt’s conceptions of the ‘political’ and ‘sovereignty’. This trend includes numerous theoretical re-evaluations of Schmitt’s thought, but also contemporary adaptations of his basic approach to politics by thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Leo Strauss, William Cavanaugh and Adam Kotsko. The PhD may choose to explore the reasons for the renewed interest in this tradition, as well as particular ways in which it is deployed to support policy and constitutional agendas. An alternative is to focus on critics of this tradition, who argue that Schmitt’s paradigm equates politics with power struggle, encouraging a zero-sum competition to assert a sovereign power that overcomes every other power, and worry that the propensity to collapse politics into sovereign power erases the category of the ‘social’ in discussions of the state. In recent debates within critical theory, this tension is expressed between those who advocate egalitarian emancipation in terms of a horizontal ‘multitude’ (Hardt and Negri), and those who advocate a new counter-hegemonic strategy to challenge the dominant sovereign forces (Laclau, Mouffe, Žižek). The PhD may choose to explore these positions by taking them to empirical context by considering how resistance and oppositions are dealt with in different policy fields (like security or migration).

Another topic is ‘Civility’ as a political concept. Civility is a key political concept of the modern era, and linked to other important concepts such as citizenship. Not only has civility long been understood as a prerequisite for life within modern urban environments, but it is often said to enable successful commercial interaction, the creation of elective affinities across economic, religious and ethnic divides, and the safe expression of unpopular views in the public sphere. The PhD may choose to reflect on the intellectual origins and development of the concept, from Classical sources through Enlightenment debate into modern times. Another focus might be the contemporary deployment of civility in political debate, within the context of globalising forces of capitalism, urbanisation, industrial development, and security. The PhD may alternatively consider resistance to the concept, such as in postcolonial or poststructuralist critiques that see ‘civility’ as a means of disciplining subaltern populations.

Other indicative topics listed in the Further Particulars – and for which a philosophical approach is welcome – are

  • The “nation” resurgent
  • “We the people” beyond the nation-state
  • Traditions of “citizenship” across Europe and beyond
  • Understanding “constitutionalism” in past and present
  • “Democracy” as a demand of global social movements
  • Digitalizing “democracy” – transforming the concept?
  •  “Secularism” and the category of “religion”

These are indicative topics – applicants are free to propose their own projects on how political concepts are used in the world.

Candidates are required to meet the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Early Stage Researcher eligibility criteria. In particular, at the time of the appointment candidates must have had less than 4 years full-time equivalent research experience and must not have already obtained a PhD. Additionally, they must not have resided in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the appointment.

These posts do not meet the minimum requirements as stipulated by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) to qualify for an employer-sponsored visa. We are therefore unable to consider applications from candidates who would require an employer-sponsored visa to work in the UK.

Deadline is 20th March 2018. Please click for Further Particulars and to apply.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 754326.

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