PhD and Postdocs (6): Racialized Lives of Migrants

The Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa) invites applications for up to six Post-Doctoral Research positions in the project The Colour of Labour: The Racialized Lives of Migrants (ERC Advanced Grant # 695573 - COLOUR), led by Cristiana Bastos.

The multi-track, multi-disciplinary project COLOUR will address the processes of racialization in cases drawn from post-slavery sugar plantations and cotton-mill factories. The cognitive categories of racialization include formal, political, popular, medical and scientific uses of race as criteria for assembling and separating human beings, as well as the medical and popular knowledge about the endurance and competence of bodies in different environments. The processes of embodiment and memory will connect the present and the past and provide a basis to explore the potentialities of combining ethnographic and historical research.

Pre-defined case studies include the flows of Madeiran islanders to the sugar plantations (Guianas, Caribbean, Hawaii) and to African rural settlements; the flows of Azorean islanders to the workforce of North America; their trajectories into further destinations; and the lives and memories of the generations that followed them. The scope of research will be completed by two further cases brought by the hired researchers (from Europe, Asia, Middle East, etc.) with potential for cross-analysis and conceptual development.

PhD Studentships (2) here.

Postdocs (6) here.

PhD (x3) and Postdoc: Participatory urban governance

'Participatory urban governance between democracy and clientelism: Brokers and (in)formal politics' is a five-year research project financed by the European Research Council (2016-2021), led by Dr Martijn Koster. This research project investigates ethnographically how brokers position themselves in participatory urban governance. It examines their practices, discourses and networks, both in and outside officially sanctioned channels and institutions. The research conceptualizes brokers as 'assemblers', connective agents who actively bring together different government and citizen actors, institutions and resources and who combine formal and informal politics.

The project focuses on four cities, two in the Global North and two in the Global South: Rotterdam (NL), Manchester (UK), Cochabamba (Bolivia) and Recife (Brazil). It will develop a new framework for analysing brokerage in participatory urban governance, which will enhance our ability to understand the challenges of political representation more broadly, as well as the impact of brokerage on state-citizen engagement and on decision-making regarding the allocation of resources.

More on PhD options.

More on Postdoc option.

Two Faces of Civil Society

A number of authors promote civil society as a mechanism to improve aid: Dwyer (2015) argued it as an alternative to traditional, top-down aid, Roy, Negron-Gonzales, Opoku-Agyemang and Talwalker (2016) as poor people's movements, Eyben (2014) of the people-centered alternative vision of civil society, and Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) about the necessity of collective action for democratic transitions. But, little is offered in the way of critical reflections on civil society, and the ways in which it can reproduce marginalization, disempowerment and exclusion. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to come across Stephen Ndegwa's The Two Faces of Civil Society: NGOs and Politics in Africa (1996). Although the book has its weaknesses, it draws out an important nuance that is often missed in the promotion of, and enthusiasm about, civil society.

Ndegwa seeks to assess how NGOs, as one part of civil society, "contribute to democratization in Africa and what conditions facilitate or inhibit their contributions" (p. 1). At the same time, there is a recognition that conditions are insufficient, drawing upon two case studies, which one "actively advocating political pluralism, and the other remaining politically obtuse" (p. 1). At the outset, Ndegwa suggests that: "there is nothing inherent about civil society organizations that makes them opponents of authoritarianism and proponents of democracy" (p. 6). And, therefore, civil society cannot "be assumed to be congenial to or supportive of democratic pluralism by its mere existence, expansion or level of activity" (p. 7).

On this note, which I believe is the greatest contribution forwarded with this book, the author highlights examples wherein organizations had the potential to act as brokers of change, working with marginalized people and interacting with the government, but made no attempts to do so. Instead, the NGO was "more concerned with carrying out its development projects than in engaging the state over issues touching on the interest of its client communities" (p. 66). Ndegwa suggests that the main lesson "from this case study is that although civil society organizations may be conscious of their political roles in the democratization movement and may have the resources, capacity, and political opportunity to mobilize, they may still be captives of their own institutionalization and especially of their connections to the state they are expected to challenge" (p. 78).

The context is particularly interesting, as this book focuses upon Kenya in the 1990s, and yet it appears in the mid-2010s we are having a similar conversation (as demonstrated by the authors mentioned above). The author explains: "The channeling of immense resources through NGOs reflects the conventional wisdom regarding the ability of official development agencies and, in particular, African states, to carry out development work. Riddled by inefficiency, corruption, and authoritarianism and generally lacking in accountability to its citizens, the African state has been isolated as the greatest bottleneck" (p. 20). Similarly, the experience of increasing governmental concern and regulation of NGO activity is resurfacing (including in Kenya and Ethiopia), then and now, strong civil society organizations pose threats to political power. A WhyDev blog outlines how donors are hesitant to challenge authoritarian government, so long as the expected outcomes are met, yet the Kenyan experience demonstrates how donor agencies were active and effective in supporting civil society and openly criticizing the government of Kenya, including the suspension of aid, supporting the reinstatement of multiparty elections (p. 29).

The book outlines four key factors that contribute to NGO success:

  • "the availability of political opportunity to voice dissent and to pursue oppositional action. This political opportunity included institutional openings allowing access to the state to express disagreement with policy and to lobby for changes" (p. 50)
  • "the level of NGO collective organization and their combined resources. In particular, the formation of the NGO Network and the elected NGO Standing Committee gave NGOs a strong collective voice" (p. 50)
  • "the NGO alliance with international donor agencies. Institutional donors consistently facilitated the NGO effort to fight the controlling legislation in various ways" (p. 51)
  • "NGO alliance with other oppositional forces in civil society was equally important" (p. 51)

Acting upon these factors, however, is not given. And, the "explanation for the two faces of civil society lies in the willingness of the leadership of these organizations to use organizational resources against the repressive state" (p. 111). Ndegwa concludes with a recommendation not on encouraging more courageous NGO leadership, but with a shift of NGO activity towards: "Grassroots empowerment… Through projects that enhance the political capacities of local communities" (p. 117).

New Publication: Land Grabbing & Human Rights

Cochrane, L. (2016) Land Grabbing. In Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, 2nd Edition, edited by P. Thompson and D. Kaplan.


  • The application of force to coerce individuals to illegally give up their land or the otherwise illegal dispossession of land, a process known as "land grabbing," is a violation of human rights – the arbitrary deprivation of property outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 17). Land grabbing is the most legally and ethically problematic form of large-scale land acquisitions. However, if direct or indirect force is not applied in the process of large-scale land acquisitions nor any laws broken, and the individuals involved receive sufficient benefit in exchange for their land, are the exchanges necessarily ethical? Based upon a human rights-based perspective, this chapter argues that human rights cannot be analyzed in isolation, but must be evaluated in totality in order to contextualize the vulnerability and duress experienced by those transferring their land. In doing so, it expands our conceptualization of what is considered "land grabbing" and what is not. Over the last decade, the majority of large-scale land acquisitions have taken place in countries where human rights are violated. In order for large-scale land acquisitions to be ethical, human rights must be met and protected to ensure that choices are truly free and fair. This is not a practical argument, made to improve the process, but an ethical argument based upon protecting the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and pastoralists, ensuring their choices are truly free and fair, not simply the product of a lack of options made from a position of vulnerability.
The full article is gated. Abstract and further publication details available via the link above. If you would like a copy of the article, send me an email.

PhD Studentships (11): Multilingualism in Education

A group of researchers of the Research Unit "Education, Culture, Cognition and Society" (ECCS) and of the Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET) at the University of Luxembourg has obtained a large grant for the interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Unit CALIDIE (Capitalising on Linguistic Diversity in Education). The doctoral programme CALIDIE is funded in the frame of the PRIDE scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) and offers 11 positions for Doctoral candidates (PhD students) in the field of Multilingualism in Education (m/f)

PhD Projects and Supervisors

• P1.1: Learners as cultural mediators: Exploring the role and value of children's multilingual practices for learning (Sociolinguistics, Ethnography, Educational studies)
• P1.2: From school to work: Multilingual practices of youth in vocational education and training (VET) (Sociolinguistics, Nexus Analysis, Ethnography, Multimodal approaches to discourse)
• P1.3: Translanguaging for learning: A study of multilingual practices in the primary school (Educational Studies)

• P1.4: Internationalisation and multilingualism in Higher Education: A focus on natural sciences (Educational Sciences, Applied / Sociolinguistics, Research in Multilingualism in Higher Education)
• P2.1: The development of orthographic practices of multilingual pupils throughout schooling (Linguistics, Written language acquisition)
• P2.2: Enhancing children's oral language skills in a multilingual educational setting: A preschool intervention study (Psychology, Educational Sciences, Developmental approach)
• P2.3: The use of value-added (VA) scores for the identification of highly effective pedagogical practices for diverse student populations (Psychology, Psychometrics & Educational Measurement)
• P2.4: Exploring innovative directions in the computer-based assessment (CBA) of language competency (Psychology, Assessment & Psychometrics, Educational Studies)
• P3.1: The influence of language profiles on early numerical and (pre-)mathematical learning (Psychology, Cognitive neuroscience approach)
• P3.2 The influence of the instruction language on mathematics in a multilingual educational setting (Cognitive psychology, Educational studies)
• P3.3 Interaction between language of instruction and language proficiency in science education (Psychology, Assessment & Psychometrics, Educational Studies)

More information.

Encountering Development

One of the books commonly cited and recommended in critical development studies circles is Arturo Escobar's Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (1995). Escobar is a Colombian-American Anthropologist, who interestingly started his academic career in chemical engineering. The award-winning book is typically summarized as reframing 'development' as a tool of control akin to colonialism. As a central idea, however, this was not entirely new: Amin (1976) has waged critiques of this nature, Weber (1976) had done similarly with the history of France, not to mention Scott (1985), Mintz (1985) and Ferguson (1990). The strength of this book, I believe, was not its originality but its bringing together of ideas.

Escobar begins by explaining that Encountering Development "tells the story of this dream and how it progressively turned into a nightmare. For instead of the kingdom of abundance promised by theorists and politicians in the 1950s, the discourse and strategy of development produced its opposite: massive underdevelopment and impoverishment, untold exploitation and oppression. The debt crisis, the Sahelian famine, increasing poverty, malnutrition and violence are only the most pathetic signs of the failure of forty years of development. In this way, this book can be read as a history of the loss of an illusion" (p. 4). Recognizing the book was written in the 1990s, it is interesting to contrast the framing of development presented by Escobar and that of Kenny in his 2011 book Getting Better – not to be contrasted here, but a worthwhile comparison for students of development studies.

"To understand development as a discourse, one must look not at the elements themselves but at the system of relations established among them. It is this system that allows the systematic creation of objects, concepts, and strategies; it determines what can be thought and said. These relations – established between institutions, socioeconomic processes, forms of knowledge, technological factors, and so on – define the conditions under which objects, concepts, theories, and strategies can be incorporated into the discourse. In sum, the system of relations establishes a discursive practice that sets the rules of the game: who can speak, from what points of view, with what authority, and according to what criteria of expertise; it sets the rules that must be followed for this for that problem, theory, or object to emerge and be named, analyzed, and eventually transformed into a policy or a plan." (p. 40-41)

While critiquing the defining of development, Escobar also offers his own definitions, ones that also disfranchises those who experience poverty from contributing their voice. For example, Escobar has a rather romantic vision of life before or outside of market influence (also assuming that all people before capitalism did not engage in market trade), in saying: "it is true that massive poverty in the modern sense appeared only when the spread of the market economy broke down community ties and deprived millions of people from access to land, water, and other resources. With the consolidation of capitalism, systemic pauperization became inevitable" (p. 22). This vision neglect social differentiation within communities, and also the serious challenges faced. This includes, for example, the poverty associated with enslavement and of famine, long pre-dating capitalism. Using Escobar's approach, it ought to be people themselves that define poverty, for their local circumstances, which we unfortunately do not find, and thus some of the critiques Escobar makes of others, also apply to his book (e.g. speaking about and for others).

As with all books, many of the concerns raised within them are time specific. Rather than focus on those that have changed, consider one that all development students, practitioners and academics can reflect on: "The underlying premise of this investigation is that as long as institutions and professionals are successfully reproducing themselves materially, culturally, and ideologically, certain relations of domination will prevail; and to the extent that this is the case, development will continue to be greatly conceptualized by those in power" (p. 106).

On accountability: "If 'the bank' does not have clear answers, nobody else does. Being 'the bank,' however, it can take some risks, and if 'some of the experiments fail,' they will bow to the difficulties of life (in the Third World) and humbly start all over again. Quite a comfortable position, especially if we consider that it is not they who have to suffer the consequences of failure, because the loans are paid back by Third World people" (p. 160-161).

Post-doc: Migration & Health (Singapore)

Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore (NUS), invites applications for TWO Postdoctoral Fellows to work on a research project entitled CHILD HEALTH AND MIGRANT PARENTS IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA (CHAMPSEA): WAVE II. Both positions will be based in Singapore.


The successful candidate will be someone who holds a PhD degree (or is awaiting conferment) and has research interests in a relevant area of the social sciences (e.g. Migration Studies, Health Studies, Development Studies, Anthropology, Sociology or Geography). S/he should have research experience in the area of migration, family and health studies, preferably in an Asian context, and will be expected to co-ordinate the qualitative stage of field work in either Indonesia or the Philippines. The candidate will join an international team of researchers at a crucial stage of the project when the first round of data collection has been completed.

  • Good project management, team-building skills and aptitude for working in a Southeast Asian context.
  • The ability to speak and understand at least one of the following Southeast Asian languages – Indonesian or Tagalog – is necessary.
  • A willingness to play a co-ordinating role in the collection of qualitative data from the study country.
  • Some experience in using qualitative data analysis software such as NVivo


For millions of families across Asia, international labour migration has become a part of a household livelihood strategy that is motivated by a desire to improve the life chances of the next generation. Yet, there has been relatively little research on transnational householding and the impacts of parental migration on children who stay behind. In this context, the research team first set out in 2008 to collect survey data from around 1,000 households in four study countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) as part of an investigation into 'Child Health and Migrant Parents in South-East Asia' (CHAMPSEA). The findings, using children in non-migrant households as a comparison group, have enhanced knowledge and understanding of the impact of parental (and increasingly mothers') absence on the health and well-being of (a) pre-school children aged 3, 4 and 5 years and (b) children in middle childhood aged 9, 10 and 11 years left in sending communities.

CHAMPSEA II will now investigate the longer-term impacts of parental absence on the CHAMPSEA children in Indonesia and the Philippines. Using a mixed-methods research design that capitalizes on the complementary strengths of quantitative and qualitative methods, this project will collect primary data using carefully designed survey instruments in order to create a unique longitudinal data set that will allow the investigation of multiple dimensions of children's health and well-being. The longitudinal data set will include anthropometric measures (height, weight, age), measures of psychological well-being (Self-Reporting Questionnaire [SRQ20]; Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), and a range of information (including parental migration histories) on selected households in Indonesia and the Philippines. The follow-up survey will interview members of the same CHAMPSEA households and the younger children in the baseline samples, who will now be 11, 12 and 13. As the older children (who were then 9, 10 and 11) will now be 17, 18 and 19, it is likely that many will have left home. A structured survey will be conducted with those still in the household and/or contactable, and a brief proxy interview with a parent or other adult on those who are uncontactable.

Anchored by an international research team with years of collaborative research experience, CHAMPSEA II will be the first mixed-method longitudinal study on the health and well-being of left-behind children in the region. Its findings will not only contribute to the academic literature but also help families, communities and government to understand better any vulnerabilities and risks that must be weighed against any material benefits of parental migration.

More details.

PhD Studentships: Anthropology (Oslo)

Faculty of Social Sciences Department of Social Anthropology

Job Description

The Department of Social Anthropology invites candidates to apply for 2 Ph.D. Research Fellowships, with starting date in January 2017.

The Department wishes to recruit two Ph.D. candidates with excellent research qualifications within Social Anthropology. Applicants should relate to one or more of the Department's core research areas. Information about the core areas can be found on the Department's website The successful candidates are expected to strengthen the research area(s) they relate to, and to contribute to and participate in research activities at the Department. Each position is for four years and will include 25% teaching, supervision and examination.


Applicants must have at least five years higher education including a two-year research based master's degree (or equivalent) in social anthropology. The successful candidates must participate in the research training organised by the Faculty of Social Sciences (the PhD programme) and undertake research that will lead to the award of a PhD in social anthropology. Applicants are referred to the Guidelines for appointment as a PhD candidate at a university or university college. The candidates who are offered the phd positions will automatically be accepted for the PhD programme.

Applicants must have good spoken and written command of a Scandinavian language and/or English.

Applicants must provide a detailed project description outlining the work to be undertaken for their proposed project (recommended total length, including the list of references: 7-10 pages; 10 pages is an absolute maximum). The project description must include the theme of the project, issues to be examined, the chosen theoretical and methodological approach and a progress plan. The successful candidates are expected to complete their projects before expiry of the PhD position.

More details.

Post-doc: Mobility & Political Authority

​Under the auspices of the South African Research Chair for Mobility & the Politics of Difference, the African Centre for Migration & Society at Wits University seeks applications for a 1-2 year post-doctoral fellowship. This position is a response to unprecedented levels of urbanisation and mobility across the African continent. Driven by conflict, ambition, and respatialising economies, such movements are generating novel and theoretically challenging socio-political formations. We welcome applicants from across the social sciences interested in how human movements are transforming modes of social engagement, authority, and political representation in sub-Saharan cities. 

Starting during the first half of 2017, the successful applicant will join an interdisciplinary team of scholars aiming to reshape global social theory and academic conversations on mobility, cities and political authority and ethics. Such work is intended to open new scholarly frontiers and while informing and enhancing sub-Saharan Africa's visibility in both academic and policy debates. With a home base in Johannesburg, scholars will be encouraged to develop and participate in projects across the region. 

Applications are due December 1, 2016. For more information, contact Loren B Landau:

Health Research Awards

Various start dates, requirements and durations:



General outline here.

Logan Cochrane

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