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.

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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).

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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. 

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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.

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David Suzuki Fellowships (3)

The David Suzuki Fellowship program will empower emerging scholars to tackle complex environmental problems. It will reduce financial barriers, provide mentorship and foster leadership and creativity so fellows can conduct research and engage and inform the public and policy-makers.


A total of three fellowships are available, one in Montreal, one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Each will be for one year (with the potential for renewal) and will consist of:

  • A $50,000 stipend, plus up to $5,000 for travel and other professional expenses
  • Mentorship from David Suzuki and David Suzuki Foundation senior staff
  • Access to office space at the Foundation offices
  1. VANCOUVER - RENEWABLE ENERGY AND/OR CLIMATE CHANGE ECONOMICS: The Vancouver-based fellow will join the Foundation's Science and Policy team and research innovative clean energy solutions and/or the economics of sustainable development. Candidates from all disciplines are encouraged to apply.
  2. TORONTO - INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND CLIMATE CHANGE: The Toronto-based fellow will join the Foundation's Ontario and Northern Canada team and work to integrate traditional Indigenous knowledge into climate change solutions. Candidates from all disciplines are encouraged to apply. You must be an Indigenous person (First Nation, Inuit or Métis) to be eligible.
  3. MONTREAL - TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE: The Montreal-based fellow will join the Foundation's Quebec and Atlantic Canada team and work on regional and/or national transportation, energy and climate change issues. Issues may include (but are not limited to) green transit planning and the development of sustainable cities. Candidates from all disciplines are encouraged to apply and must be bilingual (French and English).

Putting the Last First

In 1983 Robert Chambers published "Rural Development: Putting the Last First." If you have not come across this book, it is well worth finding a copy. As a book written more than three decades ago, it offers some perspective on what lessons have been learned. However, this book is particularly challenging to read as you encounter issues that are almost exactly the same today as they were in 1983.

The book begins exploring biases – a topic everyone needs to critical (re)reflect upon all the time. Specifically, Chambers highlights those related to rural experiences: "The direct rural experience of most urban-based outsiders is limited to the brief and hurried visits, from urban centers, of rural development tourism. These exhibit six biases against contact with and learning from the poorer people. These are spatial – urban, tarmac, and roadside; project – toward places where there are projects; person – toward those who are better off, men rather than women, users of services and adopters of practice rather than non-users and non-adapters, and those who are active, present and living; seasonal , avoiding the bad times of the wet season; diplomatic, not seeking out the poor for fear of giving offence; and professional, confined to the concerns of the outsider's specialisation. As a result, the poorer rural people are little seen and even less is the nature of their poverty understood." (p. 2) In a previous post on Eyben's 2014 book, I posed the question to what extent the biases are unintentional, when in fact choices are being made (specifically those of choosing to live an expat live and entrenching the biases). Chambers also notes this: "There is also an element of choice. Outsiders choose what to do – where to go, what to see, and whom to meet" (p. 4).

Chambers' second topic of concern is that of the "negative academic" and the "positive practitioner" divide: "Outsiders polarise into two cultures: a negative academic culture, mainly of social scientists, engaged in unhurried analysis and criticism; and a more positive culture of practitioners, engaged in time-bounded action. Each culture takes a poor view of the other and the gap between them is often wide" (p. 28). Further: "to some critical and intolerant academics, practitioners are narrow-minded philistines and at best naïve reformists, part of a system of exploitation of which they are largely unaware" (p. 29). Chambers understands these divides as being rooted in training as academics are taught "to criticise and are rewarded for it" but also notes that the "critical attitudes have made an enormous contribution" (p. 29). I can only assume this has moderately improved since the early 1980s, but nonetheless continues (asthis 2016 development studies book highlighted). For the critical academics, Chambers offers some thoughts for their reflection: "It is easy to write about what ought to be. The hard question is how, in the real, messy, corrupting world to encourage and enable more people to move in these directions" (p. 189).

I found it quite interesting that Chambers raised a key challenge to the research and academic community – again, in 1983 – that has still not been addressed in a substantial way: "Supposedly rigorous in research methodology, academics are astonishingly unrigorous in the diffusion of their findings. To impress peers and promotion boards they publish impenetrable prose in prestigious journals… Enormous sums are devoted to research and little to diffusion of research results. Diffusion and impact are often left to take care of themselves" (p. 62-63). To this concern, I add the challenges of people who need access to the research (i.e. government staff, policy makers) do not have access to the journal articles.

One of the practical solutions Chambers offers to challenges the biases is for outsider professionals "to step down off their pedestals, and sit down, listen and learn" (p. 101) and to recognize "small farmers as professionals and colleagues, as fellow experimenters and developers of technology" (p. 206). The final chapter, however, explicitly offers concrete recommendations, and concludes: "These six approaches – sitting; asking and listening; learning from the poorest; learning indigenous technical knowledge; joint R and D [Research and Development]; learning by working; and simulation games – all reverse the learning process. They encourage and enable those being trained or educated to learn from the many below and not just from the few above" (p. 209).

Funded MA: Youth & Farming

​Funding is available for one student to undertake a two-year MA in Sociology or Public Issues in Anthropology (with the option of the collaborative International Development Studies program) and to undertake research on a topic related to young farmers in one or more of the four countries (Canada, China, India and Indonesia) under the aegis of the research project Becoming a young farmer: Young people's pathways into farming, at the University of Guelph.

The global phenomenon of an ageing farming population, poor returns on farming in the current economic paradigm and an apparent lack of interest among youth in agrarian and rural futures have attracted considerable attention among policy makers and researchers. At the same time, what is overlooked is that not all young people leave farming and the countryside, and some urban youth establish themselves as first-generation urban or rural farmers. By studying young people's pathways into farming futures we aim to fill an important void in current work on rural youth and agrarian studies and in policies related to rural poverty reduction and employment generation. First, the research studies will go beyond documenting the various barriers that keep young people from establishing agrarian futures to examining how at least some young people manage to overcome these. Second, they will assess the working of intergenerational dynamics underpinning trajectories into farming, ranging from inheritance to the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. Third, they will shed light on generational innovation in farming practices across the globe. Gender will be treated as a key relation of social differentiation shaping all three areas of inquiry. 

A competitive funding package (including a minimum guaranteed stipend, TAships, RAships and field research funding) is available for the right student. Fluency in the local language, prior field experience and familiarity with mixed methods of data collection and analysis are desirable. 

Those interested should please email a CV, a 250 word research design, sample writing, three reference letters, and an unofficial transcript to: Dr. Sharada Srinivasan by 09 December 2016. Short-listed applicants will be interviewed by Skype by the end of December 2016. Admission is subject to the approval of the relevant graduate admissions committee(s).

Logan Cochrane

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