Political Concepts in the World – Politics of ‘democracy’

The University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme, is delighted to offer 6 Early Stage Researcher (PhD) positions, lasting 3 years starting in September 2019, 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 £26,489.40 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 politics of ‘democracy’. What do we do when we talk about ‘democracy’, its ‘promotion’ or its ‘defence’? How can we understand the difference between rhetorical commitments to democracy and the practices conducted under that rubric, especially when they repeatedly fail over time? In particular, how can we describe relations of power which, while nominally emancipatory – such as democratization –, in practice undermine that emancipation? The study of democracy and of ‘transitions towards democracy’ such as it exists today in Political Science faces many difficulties, both analytically and empirically, but its most basic limitation is rooted precisely in the impossibility of conceptualising its own political deployment, its active role in the politics it supposedly merely describes. This project encourages the use of multiple sources of evidence (from interviews to public opinion survey data to document analysis) to explore the challenges to democratization orthodoxy. The project will focus on two key problems. First, to understand how and why the failures of both the analytical models of democratization and policy supporting democratic transitions have paradoxically been able to reinforce the democratization framework. Second, to explore the ways in which this politics of democracy is not limited to individual context of internal politics, but can be analysed as a phenomenon that ‘twins’ populations and debates in disparate geographical locations – e.g. how the debates over and policy practices towards democracy in one ‘world region’ affect those in another area.

Other indicative topics listed in the Further Particulars are

  • “We the people” beyond the nation-state
  • The “nation” resurgent?
  • Traditions of “citizenship” within and beyond Europe
  • Rule of law and constitutionalism
  • Sovereignty and the state
  • Teaching political concepts in post-truth times
  • Protest, populism and social movements
  • Digitalising ‘democracy’ – transforming the concept?
  • Civility and understanding the political
  • ‘Radicalisation’, ‘extremism’ and the role of ‘civil society’
  • Conceptualizing secularism, post-secularism and religion itself
  • The politics of ‘religious pluralism
  • Horizons of the ‘political’

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.

Any appointment will be offered a contract of employment that will be conditional upon satisfactory references, a 12 month probation period, the fulfilment of any conditions specified in the offer of a place on a PhD programme, and confirmation of the right to work in the UK and ability to secure a valid visa, if required, from UK Visas and Immigration

Deadline is 5th of March 2019. Please click here for Further Particulars and details of how 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.