Funded PhDs: Energy Ethics

The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews (UK) is advertising 2 PhD scholarships (4 years, full time, 100% UK/EU fee waiver with maintenance stipend of approx. £14,296/year (equivalent to a RCUK stipend) and conference/research expenses) to participate in an ERC-funded research project on the ethics of oil. The start date is September 2017. Deadline for application: 16 January 2017

This project entitled "The Ethics of Oil: Finance Moralities and Environmental Politics in the Global Oil Economy (ENERGYETHICS)" offers an exciting opportunity for 2 outstanding graduates to join a major anthropological research project funded by the European Research Council - as part of the conventional track for a PhD in Social Anthropology at University of St Andrews. The project is a comparative study of how people in positions of influence within the global oil economy make financial and ethical valuations of oil. Ethnographic fieldwork will be carried out with oil companies in the US and Norway, energy analysts in the UK and the US, and fossil fuel divestment movements in Germany and the UK. Taking our starting point in people's own perceptions of and direct involvement in the oil economy, we aim to understand the relationship between oil, money and climate change. We will ask: What is the value of oil? How do such valuations, understood as both financial and ethical, intersect and inform the making of the global energy economy in oil? To what extent can oil be an important industrial resource, a profit-yielding investment opportunity and an undesired pollutant that brings about irreversible climate impacts?

We are seeking prospective candidates with an existing interest in fields such as economic life, morality and ethics, energy and climate change, corporations and organisations. Applicants are encouraged to contribute their own provisional research ideas in the form of a proposal as part of their application. Projects will have ethnographic fieldwork at their core, but may also draw on other methodologies, including archival and visual media work.

Successful candidate 1 will explore convergences of oil production with national welfare agendas and climate change concerns in Norway. The research will involve 15 months of fieldwork and the candidate must be able to/willing to learn Norwegian. Successful candidate 2 will examine how divestment projects in Germany and the UK intersect with oil industry vulnerability and visions for the future. The research will involve 15 months of fieldwork and the candidate must be able to/willing to learn German.

Prospective candidates are encouraged to contact the Principal Investigator Dr Mette M. High.

Post-doc: Population Data

Population Data BC is seeking a Postdoctoral Fellow or Research Associate for a two-year term, with possibility for extension, to take significant leadership in a timely applied research project that will engage with the public to reform governance of access to research resources. Developments in data, technology, researcher desires, and public expectations have outpaced the outdated data access arrangements currently in use, and this program of research aims to address this issue while enhancing the legitimacy of policies for accessing new and complex linked data through consultation with a deliberatively engaged public. Objectives of this project include understanding how a deliberatively engaged public assesses and advises regarding criteria for the use of data and biospecimens, and the design and proposal of a model of sustained public involvement in data access governance in collaboration with data stewards.

Operating primarily within the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, Population Data BC is a multi-university, data and education resource facilitating secure research access to individual-level, de-identified longitudinal data on British Columbia's 4.6 million residents, linking data across various sectors such as health, education, early childhood development, workplace and the environment

Key objectives of Population Data BC are to:

  1. Make more data sets available for research
  2. Facilitate cross-linkages among the data sets in a privacy sensitive manner
  3. Provide strategic leadership to ensure streamlined researcher access to these data
  4. Provide educational and other opportunities to ensure full and best use of those data

The primary activities of the Postdoctoral Fellow or Research Associate include:

  • Provide overall project leadership for a public engagement research project as outlined in a funded CIHR grant
  • Work with the investigative team and project stakeholders on framing questions and other planning aspects of public engagement
  • Lead event planning and production of materials for public engagement
  • Analyse transcripts and other information gathered during the public engagement event
  • Prepare academic material and knowledge translation material based on these analyses
  • Assess ability of PopData to embed public engagement in its ongoing work

More details.​

Pathologies of Power

Paul Farmer's (2005) "Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor" is a "physician-anthropologist's effort to reveal the ways in which the most basic right – the right to survive – is trampled in an age of great affluence" (p. 6). However, Farmer covers much more than the right to survive, this book "is about the struggle for social and economic rights, the neglected stepchildren of the human rights movement. Because social and economic rights include the right to health care, housing, clean water, and education, they are sometimes called the "the rights of the poor."' (p. xxiv). It is highly recommended for academics and practitioners, and I also highly recommend Farmer's book Infections and Inequalities.

For those new to development studies, academics who assume development practitioners are non-reflexive positivists, and for practitioners looking to be more critical of the processes within international development, Farmer's books are essential reads. In the opening pages he sets the tone: "It was not the silence that rankled. It seemed to us that the exercise was demeaning – the participants, having survived genocide and displacement, were now being treated like children. They were being asked to respond to an agenda imported from capital cities, from do-gooder organizations like ours, from U.S. universities with the "right" answers to their every question. No harm done, perhaps, and the topic was important – but how helpful was this exercise, with its aim of changing the mentality of the locals, who were, after all, the victims of the previous decades of violence? A change in mentality was needed, certainly, but it was needed in the hearts and minds of those with power – and they were not here" (p. 3-4).

It is not just the 'others' with power; as a physician, Farmer writes that many "physicians are uncomfortable acknowledging these harsh facts of life and death. To do so, one must admit that the majority of premature deaths are, as the Haitians would say, "stupid deaths." They are completely preventable with the tools already available to the fortunate few" (p. 144). Yet, it is not simply more "development" that is required: "Developmentalism not only erases the historical creation of poverty but also implies that development is necessarily a linear process: progress will inevitably occur if the right steps are followed. Yet any critical assessment of the impact of such approaches must acknowledge their failure to help the poor" (p. 155)

Weaved throughout the book, Farmer expresses his concern with a changing set of norms and values: from rights, respect and dignity to costs and value for money. He writes: "many of the concepts currently in vogue in public health – from "cost-effectiveness" to "sustainability" and "replicability" - are likely to be perverted unless social justice remains central to public health and medicine. A human rights approach to health economics and health policy helps to bring into relief the ill effects of the efficacy-equity trade-off" (p. 18). This view is not just challenged as an opinion, but as an affront to the practice of health care: "the flabby moral relativism of our times would have us believe that we may now choose from a broad menu of approaches to delivering effective health care services to the poor. This is simply not true. Whether you are sitting in a clinic in rural Haiti, and this witness to stupid deaths from infection, or sitting in an emergency room in a U.S. city, and this the provider of first resort for forty million uninsured, you must acknowledge that the commodification of medicine invariably punishes the vulnerable" (p. 152). This book was published in 2005, and parts published earlier, and Farmer foresaw a challenge that has grown (while also shifting names from cost-effectiveness to value for money, to assessments of quality-adjusted life years, and as metrics in results and impact reporting): "As international health experts come under the sway of the bankers and their curiously bounded utilitarianism, we can expect more and more of our services to be declared "cost-ineffective" and more of our patients to be erased. In declaring health and health care to be a human right, we join forces with those who have long labored to protect the rights and dignity of the poor" (p. 159).

For those who work with marginalized and vulnerable people, who voices are excluded, it is challenging to convey experiences to others. In Farmer's earlier book Infections and Inequalities he used vignettes of people's lives as an attempt. In this end, however, "the experience of suffering, it's often noted, is not effectively conveyed by statistics or graphs. In fact, the suffering of the world's poor intrudes only rarely into the consciousness of the affluent, even when our affluence may be shown to have direct relation to their suffering. This is true even when spectacular human rights violations are at issue, and it is even more true when the topic at hand is the everyday violation of social and economic rights" (p. 31). It is both a depressing conclusion – the reality of a lack of concern – and a call to action. The systems that create and entrench poverty, as well as those that ignore suffering when plan to see, will continue lest things change, and change necessitates informed, critical engagement.

Post-doc: Migration and the humanities (Harvard)

The Mahindra Humanities Center invites applications for one-year postdoctoral fellowships in connection with the Center's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seminar on the topic of migration and the humanities.

Migration plays as critical a role in the moral imagination of the humanities as it does in shaping the activist vision of humanitarianism and human rights. Too often, the humanities are summoned merely as witnesses to the spectacle of the significant currents and crises of contemporary life. Literature and the arts are viewed as iconic presences whose primary aesthetic and moral values lie in their illustrative powers of empathy and evocation. Yet the intellectual formation of the humanities—their very conception of the nature of meaning, knowledge, and morals—is deeply resonant with the displacement of values and the revision of norms that shape the transitional and translational narratives of migrant lives.

Built around pedagogies of representation and interpretation—textual, visual, digital, political, ethical, ecological, etc.—the humanities engage with the history of shifting relations between cultural expression, historical transition, and political transformation. The ethics of citizenship in our time are defined as much by migration and resettlement as by indigenous belonging, as much by global governance as by national sovereignty. And the humanities play a central role in defining the terms and the territories of cultural citizenship as it creates innovative institutions and identities in the making of a civil society.

More details.

Funded MA: Northern Agriculture and Food

Project: Agricultural values and food sovereignty possibilities on the edge of Northern Ontario

Graduate Program: Public Issues Anthropology MA – University of Guelph
Deadline: February 1, 2017

SSHRC-supported graduate funding for students interested in issues of agriculture, food sovereignty, agricultural values and ethics, local food systems, and rural livelihoods. Seeking 1-2 MA students who are planning to begin their graduate studies in September 2017, and who will be applying to the Public Issues Anthropology MA program at the University of Guelph. The value of the funding is between $7000-$10,000 each year, for up to two years.

The application deadline for the Public Issues Anthropology MA is February 1, 2017.

If you are interested in this funding opportunity, please feel free to contact Dr. Elizabeth Finnis.

Post-doc: Comparative Global Humanities (Tufts)

2017-2018 Center for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship in Comparative Global Humanities

The Center for the Humanities at Tufts University (CHAT) invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship, beginning July 1, 2017. The fellows will be in residence at the Center, and participate in a research seminar on themes in Comparative Global Humanities, a project that reconceives humanities and social science knowledge in relation to histories of global relation, contradiction, and exchange.

We seek a junior scholar whose research investigates the impact and transformation of culture in relation to colonialism, racial capitalism, trade, migration and diaspora. We are interested in work that crosses national and disciplinary boundaries to reconceive the objects, methods, material culture and archives for research. The area of specialization is open and may involve one or more of the following disciplines: anthropology, history, comparative literature, religion, material and visual culture, critical theory, however, the Comparative Global Humanities project is particularly interested in an interdisciplinary scholar with the ability to think broadly and experimentally across conventional geographic, thematic or temporal norms.

The fellow will receive a stipend of $47,500, will be eligible for Tufts University health benefits, and will have an office at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts (CHAT).

More details

Early Career Fellowships - Brunel University London

Brunel University London will support a number of Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship applications in the 2016 competition. Applications for this competition require the support of a member of Brunel staff who is willing to act as mentor. Brunel will hold an internal competition to decide which applications will be put forward under the scheme and should not approach The Leverhulme Trust directly at this stage. The Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship scheme is aimed at scholars who are at a relatively early stage of their academic careers and who have a proven record of research. Applicants must hold an awarded doctorate (or have equivalent research experience), and must not hold or have held a permanent academic position in a UK university or comparable institution. 

Additional details.

Silent Violence: Food, Famine & Peasantry

I enjoy reading books in the international development sphere than are dated. Sometimes it is encouraging to see how far the sector has come, and at other times it is depressing how little has changed. These books are often sources of inspiration for ideas, while at the same time provide a better grounding on where ideas come from – we often see a recent citation about a particular concept, when in fact it has much deeper, unacknowledged roots. Thus, I dug into Michael Watts nearly 700 page tome: "Silent Violence: Food, Famine & Peasantry in Northern Nigeria" (1983). The book was written the same year as another essential reading, "Rural Development" by Chambers (1983).

Watts sets out the key research questions at the outset: "Why has this crisis arisen [1980s], what are its historic origins, and why do food systems periodically break down completely? Why, in other words, do famines occurs and how have their genesis and effects changed through time?" (p. xxi). The author takes readers on a journey in this book exploring these questions in the context of northern Nigeria, and more specifically the area of the former Sokoto Caliphate. In addressing these questions, the author focuses on "the social dimensions of drought and, as a corollary, on the social production of famine" (p. xxii) as opposed to the environmental or biological foci that were common in the 1980s (and in some places, such as in the IPCC, maintain this focus.

This detailed study integrates geography, history and anthropology in unique ways. The data sources were not always plentiful and Watts is exceedingly open about the problems with data, his methods and the potential for biases. For example, in describing the work, he states "what emerges is a small, patchy and perhaps unrepresentative picture; yet to report to large-scale sampling on such sensitive subject matters would, in my opinion, magnify the error factor to a wholly intolerable degree" (p. 35).

The context of the book is time bound – as Watts engages leading thinkers of the moment (Scott and Popkin, in particular), however the debates continue in various manifestations, such as the economic systems wherein the poorest and most vulnerable benefit: "Although the relationships between colonialism and household security in Northern Nigeria were often ambiguous, it would nonetheless be wrongheaded in my opinion to conclude, as Popkin (1979, p. 33) does, based on his Asian experience, that the "expansion of markets is of particular benefit to poorer peasants"; or indeed that "peasants clearly benefit from the growth of law and order … and wider systems of trade, credit and communications… [which] helped keep [them] alive during local famines" (p. 81).

Throughout the book, and likely one of the reasons I enjoyed this book, is a prominent role of, and reflection about, politics. For example: "All of this is not to lessen the burden and the suffering of the famine or to delegitimize Sahelian poverty. But it is now clear that answers to many critical questions that pertain to conditions in the early 1970s are political and many more ultimately unknowable." (p. 374) Watts returns to this conclusion later as well (p. 464-465). There are also political responses, in addition to decisions of politicians: "The whole arena of labor control was characterized by constant struggle and peasant resistance, if not revolt, against explicit coercions by the state, taxes, or the voracious appetites of the buying agents. The evidence suggests that localized opposition, withdrawal, tax evasions, flight, desertion, sabotage, robbery, and religiously inspired revolt were a vital chapter in the history of the Hausa peasantry." (p. 364) While much has changed in the three decades since publication, thinking and acting politically remains one of the conversations that has continued, as limited progress has been made in putting it into practice.

Post-doc Fellowships (Canada)

University of Alberta Postdoctoral Fellowships​

Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowships

  • provided annually from the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fund for Advanced Studies established through a bequest from the late Dorothy J Killam
  • valued at $46,000 per year for two years
  • number of fellowships awarded varies each year (three for 2016-2017)
  • includes a one-time $4,000 travel/research grant
  • covers the cost of the University Postdoc Supplemental Health Insurance Plan

Grant Notley Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowship

  • provided by donations from friends of Grant Notley, matched by the Province of Alberta
  • valued at $46,000 per year for two years
  • available for research in politics, history, economy or society of Western Canada or related fields
  • one fellowship awarded each year
  • includes a one-time $4,000 travel/research grant
  • covers the cost of the University Postdoc Supplemental Health Insurance Plan

Funded PhDs (3): Anthropology; Islam in Asia

​The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology is one of the leading centres for research in social anthropology. Common to all research projects at the Max Planck Institute is the comparative analysis of social change; it is primarily in this domain that its researchers contribute to anthropological theory, though many programmes also have applied significance and political topicality. The DFG Emmy Noether Junior Research Group: 'The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia', led by Dr. Dominik M. Müller, is offering 3 PhD positions starting 1 April 2017.

Following the popular waves of Islamic resurgence, state-sponsored Islamic bureaucracies have become influential societal actors in Southeast Asia, particularly in countries where Muslim populations play a significant political role. The governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have in diverse ways empowered 'administrative' bodies to guide Islamic discourse. Although their approaches, motivations and spheres of influence differ widely, they share the intention to formalize classificatory schemes of Islam and create binding rules for engaging in public communication about it. The Junior Research Group will investigate the bureaucratization of Islam and its socio-legal dimensions from an anthropological perspective, with a particular focus on the state's exercise of 'classificatory power' and its actual workings on the micro-level. The project argues that the bureaucratization of Islam far transcends the boundaries of its institutions. Focusing on diverse empirical contexts, the group will scrutinize how the imposition of formalized schemes of Islam – a transformation of Islam into the codes and procedures of bureaucracy – has socio-legal consequences that penetrate deeply into public discourse and the everyday lives of various affected social actors. The project also asks how the bureaucracies' classificatory practices and micro-politics of power resonate with social realities among the wider population and how social actors actively react to them, always with the intention of going beyond unidirectional 'cause–effect models' that overstate the power of official policies. Conceptually, the project treats the bureaucratization of Islam not just descriptively as an empirical fact, but as a larger analytic phenomenon to be theorized in comparative perspective. Grounded in long-term fieldwork, focusing on actors' perspectives and positioned in anthropological debates, the project intends to generate a new, ethnographically grounded understanding of contemporary Islamic discourse in the context of state power in Southeast Asia, with implications beyond the region.

More details.

Logan Cochrane

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