PhD positions Faculty Theology and Religious Studies (2.0 FTE)


Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies


University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative center of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 36,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge. The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies is an ambitious faculty with a dynamic and accomplished staff drawn from around the world (58% international), and a Graduate School with 60 PhD students.

The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies offers two four-year PhD research positions. The PhD candidates will be enrolled in our Graduate School ( will be members of the Department Comparative Study of Religion (

Job description

The research project
The PhD positions are part of a larger collaborative, international and interdisciplinary research team that investigates socio-cultural and religious meanings of cereals in Odisha (India) in the context of changing government policies and new global and local valuations of cereals in connection to discourses of bio-diversity, sustainability and food security. The present call relates to the NWO (Dutch Research Council) funded research project (more information on this project below) that will be hosted by the University of Groningen. Two other complementary projects are funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) and hosted by the Frobenius Institute for Research in Cultural Anthropology (FI, Frankfurt am Main, Germany). For more information on these projects and possibilities of PhD positions, please contact the Director of the FI, Prof. Roland Hardenberg (

Summary of the NWO project: “Salvage Crops, ‘Savage’ People: A comparative anthropological and archaeobotanical investigation of Millet Assemblages in India”; Project leaders: Dr. Peter Berger (Social and Cultural Anthropology) and Prof. René Cappers (Archaeology, Archaeobotany).

Millets, grasses grown mostly in Africa and India, used to be marginalized as “poor-man’s food”. Now they are globally regarded as crucial for the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable-Development-Goals due to their excellent nutritional and ecological properties. In order to promote millets, the Indian state of Odisha recently initiated the “Millets Mission” in regions inhabited by millet-cultivating indigenous peoples (Adivasis). However, agro-scientists and policymakers fail to recognize the cultural dimensions of food-crop production. While they now consider millets as salvage crops, the original Adivasi cultivators are often considered as backward and their cultures curtailed. We argue, conversely, that bio-diversity depends on cultural diversity.

The policies entail new configurations and valuations of millets that relate people, crops, ideas and technology in novel ways. We aim to investigate the full complexity of human engagements with millets in these changing circumstances. Understanding the conditions, dynamics and implications of crop selection is crucial for a sustainable future. We achieve this aim by integrating the approaches of anthropology and archaeobotany and by combining ethnographic and historical perspectives. Our societal aim is to challenge mainstream representations of Adivasi cultures, to explicate the consequences of the disconnection of crops and culture, and to facilitate constructive dialogue between stakeholders.

The two ethnographic sub-projects (each carried out by a PhD researcher) will involve long-term fieldwork among two Adivasi communities of Odisha that employ different traditional cultivation systems. 1) Adivasi shifting cultivators (PhD sub-project I): Numerous communities inhabiting steep hills practice shifting cultivation. This type of non-irrigated cultivation uses one type of field, which is cleared in the forest and then cultivated for a number of years. It also involves intensive multi-cropping, that is, different kinds of millets are cultivated in the same field next to pulses, roots and fruits. Millets have been the single most important staple food for these communities. 2) Adivasi rice & millets cultivators (PhD sub-project II): The situation is different on the Koraput plateau of Odisha. Here, millet and rice are complementary traditional staple crops cultivated in different ways. While millets are grown on permanent dry fields, the specific ecological conditions of the plateau allow wet-rice cultivation in terraced riverbeds. While rice is a new crop among shifting cultivators, on the plateau rice cultivation is an ancient practice and together with millet cultivation deeply engrained in ritual and worldview.


The PhD researcher is expected:

• to have a (research) master in socio-cultural anthropology or related disciplines within the field of humanities and social sciences
• to have a thorough training in empirical, qualitative research skills and experience in conducting ethnographic fieldwork
• to be committed to conduct intensive long-term ethnographic fieldwork (at least 15 months) in a rural part of Odisha (India)
• to be fluent in English (both oral and written)
• to be able and willing to work in an international, interdisciplinary environment
• to be able to finish the PhD thesis in four years
• to enjoy planning, taking initiative, and academic writing; and
• to have the desire to publish.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary from a minimum of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year to € 3,061 gross per month in the fourth year, in case of fulltime employment
• attractive employment conditions, which include a holiday allowance of 8%, a year-end bonus of 8.3% and up to 41 days paid time off. Substantial tax benefits may apply to non-Dutch citizens, conditional on permission granted by the Dutch Tax Office
• a position for a period of four years. First you are offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. The conditions of employment are available at the University of Groningen website under Human Resources:

• 5 August 2021 - deadline for submitting applications (23:59 Dutch local time)
• 25 August 2021 - selection of candidates for online interviews; notification of invited candidates
• 2 September 2021 - online interviews with PhD candidates; notification of selected candidates
• 1 November 2021 - preferred starting date of PhD’s in Groningen.

Job Application

You may apply for these positions until 5 August 23:59 pm / before 6 August 2021 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Your application should include:

• a brief letter of motivation
• a CV, including contact details of two academic referees
• a writing sample of no more than 5000 words, such as an essay or part of a Master’s thesis
• a research proposal for one of the PhD sub-projects outlined above. Outline in max. 1000 words how you would shape and conduct the sub-project in question
• certified official transcripts of your academic degrees

Official documents must be in the English, Spanish, Portuguese, French or Dutch language. Any translation of originals not in these languages must be authenticated.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Dr Peter Berger

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 221368-69

Digital application form