PhD Studentship: Public History of the Middle East

The Public History program and the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at NC State University are looking for a Doctoral Candidate in the Public History of the Middle East to start in fall 2017 for a period of three years. Acceptance into the program includes a competitive stipend, full tuition waiver, and health coverage.

The topic of the candidate's scholarly interest should broadly be in the Public History of the Middle East and ideally will complement the research undertaken in the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, although we are open to dissertations that explore other Middle Eastern peoples beyond the Lebanese. Study will be in the Public History doctoral program at NC State University.

We are looking for a doctoral student who is interested in issues of public memory, commemoration, cultural heritage, cultural resource preservation, museum or historic site interpretation, museum education, digital research and presentation methods, and/or other public history theoretical and methodological approaches. The dissertation should reflect interest in the diasporas of Middle Eastern peoples as historic, cultural, and socio-economic phenomena. The candidate should be creative, visionary, and self-motivated. We are unaware of other comparable studies, so the student will be contributing to the development of historiographical and theoretical frameworks for the study of the Public History of the Middle East. The candidate is expected to undertake archival research as well as fieldwork (financed). The candidate is expected to widely share research with academic and public audiences.


By January 15, 2017, all application materials (letter of interest including explicit description of anticipated dissertation topic, C.V., academic transcripts, writing sample—preferably master's thesis, and proof of language skills) should be submitted online at

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Envisioning Power

Anthropologist Eric Wolf (1923-1999) last book, Envisioning Power: Ideologies of Dominance and Power (1999) is not his most well-known work, but is a book that should be read by those seeking to understand how anthropological studies, and comparative cultural studies, can contribute to our understand of power and politics and their relation to ideas and ideology. Wolf's most well-known book, Europe and the People Without History (1982), will be covered in a future post. The book Envisioning Power offers three in-depth case studies (Kwakiult, Aztec and National Socialists of Germany), and a brief conclusion that summarizes his main conclusions. For those not interested in the detailed case studies, the first two chapters (Introduction and Contested Concepts) as well as the concluding chapter are worthwhile reads. I will not draw upon the case study content, at it is detailed and requires significant context.

As many voices had done during the 80s and 90s, the limitations of disciplinary silos was addressed by Wolf in this work, at a time when interdisciplinary work and programs were becoming more common practice: "I write these lines as an anthropologist, albeit as one who see his discipline as a link in the more encompassing effort of the human sciences to understand and explicate the multiple human conditions" (p. 19). And, later in the book stating that the "anthropologist's task should be neither to exalt nor to condone but to explain" (p. 134). While Wolf's approach tends to take an academic-as-authority approach that has been criticized, such faults do not make the book one not worth reading. Consider reflections on the power of ideas:

  • "One must not forget to ask who is using reason, rationality, logic, and emotional neutrality to do what to whom. As states and enterprises around the worked incorporated Enlightenment appeal to reason to enhance their managerial efficiency, the application of instrumental logic often exacted an exorbitant price… Those charged with dispensing reason can readily tag others as opponents of progress. Down to the present, the protagonists of reason have seen themselves as apostles of modernity. They have advocated industrialization, specialization, secularization, and rational bureaucratic allocation as reasoned options superior to unreasoned reliance on tradition." (p. 25)

And, on the nature of power more explicitly:

  • "Thinking of power in relational terms, rather than as a concentrated "power-pack," has the further advantage that it allows one to see power as an aspect of many kinds of relations. Power works differently in interpersonal relations, in institutional arenas, and on the level of whole societies." (p. 5)
  • "structural power. By this I mean the power manifest in relationships that not only operates within settings and domains but also organizes and orchestrates the settings themselves, and that specifies the direction and distribution of energy flows. In Marxian terms, this refers to the power to deploy and allocate social labor. It is also the modality of power addressed by Michel Foucault when he spoke of "governance," to mean the exercise of "action upon action" (1984, 427-28). These relations of power constitute structure power." (p. 5)

In the concluding remarks Wolf writes:

  • "The three case studies presented in this book revealed societies under increasing stress, facing multiplicity of tensions posed by ecological, social, political, or psychological crises. In each case the response entailed the development of an ideology that Kroeber would have characterized as an "extreme expression." These ideologies, carried forward by elites, were fashioned out of pre-existing cultural materials, but they are not to be understood as disembodied cultural schemata. They addressed the very character of power in society, specifically the power that structured the differentiation, mobilization, and deployment of social labor, and they rooted that power in the nature of the cosmos." (p. 274)

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PhD studentship: ‘Changing Cultures in Health and Medicine’

Deadline for applications: Friday 3rd June 2016, 4pm

The University of Liverpool is seeking applications for a fully funded PhD studentship in the Medical Humanities and Social Sciences to be associated with the Centre for Health, Arts and Science (CHARTS). Alongside PhD research, the successful candidate will play a role in raising the profile of research in this area, including developing the web presence for the Centre.

This studentship will provide support for up to three years of full-time study, or six years of part-time study, on a programme leading to the award of a doctoral degree. Funding includes a stipend of £14,057 (equivalent to RCUK rate, subject to confirmation for 2016/17) for three years (full time) and PhD registration fees at standard UK/EU student rate. This studentship is expected to start no later than October 2016.

Proposals should be rooted in the humanities and/or social sciences (rather than clinical disciplines) and should be developed by the candidate in consultation with a proposed supervisor (please see the list of indicative supervisors below and consult their staff pages to guide you in potential research areas). The research should address the broad theme of Changing Cultures in Health and Medicine. This might include, though is in no way limited to:

  • changing historical or contemporary cultures of medical practice;
  • activist groups as agents for change in relation to health and medicine;
  • the role of health care and medicine in changing political, economic, social and cultural contexts;
  • the role of new technologies in cultural understandings of medicine, health and the body;
  • the role of the arts in health and wellbeing.

CHARTS is an interdisciplinary centre which recognises the vital role that arts, humanities and creativity can play in enhancing medical and scientific practice as well as in extending our understanding of health and well-being across an individual's life cycle and in different kinds of communities.

More details.

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Post-Doc Fellowship: Labrador Institute

The Postdoctoral Fellowship program of the Faculty of Arts and the Labrador Institute (Goose Bay) supports promising new scholars in the social sciences and humanities with a focus on issues relating to Labrador and Aboriginal communities. The Labrador Institute is a multi-disciplinary administrative unit of Memorial University with responsibility for delivery of academic initiatives such as research and education. 

The institute accomplishes much of its mission and mandate through collaboration with other units of Memorial University and partner groups in Labrador and abroad. The Institute also has a substantial outreach function which provides university expertise to Labrador people for less formal, community-driven projects and requests, often dealing with language retention, culture and heritage.

More details.

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Logan Cochrane

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