PhD position Reimagining Religion, Security and Social Transformation (1.0 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.

Job description

The successful candidate will work within the research project “Reimagining Religion, Security and Social Transformation”. The project is part of the “Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action” (JISRA) which aims to co-create a strategy to advance the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief in seven countries. JISRA is an international interfaith consortium consisting of Mensen met een Missie, Faith to Action Network, Tearfund (UK and Netherlands), and Search for Common Ground. JISRA is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affair (within the policy framework “Power of Voices”).

As part of the JISRA Knowledge Agenda, this research project aims to provide input to the study of religion, security and social transformation. Furthermore, it aims to provide input for policy and practitioners’ efforts to more comprehensively address the complex, nuanced role of religion in conflict, violence and (post-conflict) social transformation processes.

The overarching research question this project explores is: What discourses, practices and behaviours do religious communities narrate and perform in relation to conflict and (post-conflict) social transformation processes?

Working in collaboration with JISRA Consortium members and local partner organizations in country, the project will be carried out utilizing an intersectional, interdisciplinary framework, drawing on theoretical and methodological insights from history, international relations, religious studies, social-psychology, peace and conflict studies, youth studies, gender studies, sociology and anthropology; and on practical insights from practitioners within the JISRA programme. The project aims to identify and analyse the different ways religious actors of various kinds engage within, across and outside their communities, focusing specifically on the role of women and youth.

Two interrelated sub-projects operationalize this research focus. The research team will be based at Utrecht University and University of Groningen and will consist of two PhDs (UU and RUG), a post-doc (UU) and and 2 PI’s (UU and RUG). The research team will work closely with the JISRA Knowledge Team, JISRA Consortium Members and local partner organisations.

For the PhD position at the University of Groningen, you will be based in the Department of Christianity and the History of Ideas and affiliated with the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalization in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies.

The project will explore narratives and practices of engagement concerning promotion of the right to freedom of religion or belief. Specifically, this project will examine how religious actors approach discussion(s) of this right within their own communities and with external actors, with particular attention for cross-cultural contextual sensitivities to this topic.

The PhD candidate will undertake long-term (10 months) ethnographic research in Kenya and Indonesia.

In addition to comprehensive desk research of existing literature and policy documents, the research will include participant observation, semi-structured and biographical narrative interviews with religious leaders, staff and volunteers at local civil society organisations working on the promotion of the right to FoRB in partnership with European NGOs, and people from the communities in which these organisations and religious leaders are embedded.

The project will be supervised by Dr Erin Wilson.

Besides research articles (as part of a dissertation) the candidate is expected to disseminate the research results beyond the academic public, including addressing wide audiences and policy makers through for instance, blogs/vlogs, newspaper articles and a policy paper on the topic.


The successful candidate should preferably have:

• a (Research) Master’s degree in history, religious studies or other relevant discipline and a demonstrable affinity with the project’s central themes (religion, diversity, human rights, extremism)
• extensive research or work experience (minimum 1 year) in (one of) the research countries
• excellent command of English, both written and orally. A (passive) knowledge of local languages, necessary for working with the archival sources and beneficial for ethnographic fieldwork, is a strong asset
• training in and/or sensitivity to conflict dynamics is a strong asset
• capacity to work both as a creative and independent researcher and as part of an academic-civil society team
• excellent communication and writing skills
• an outstanding record of undergraduate and master's degree work
• experience working with diverse stakeholders and communicating with non-academic audiences is a strong asset
• experience or affinity with women/gender and/or youth.

Candidates originating from the research countries are strongly encouraged to apply.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

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

• a salary of € 2,443 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,122 gross per month in the fourth and final year
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
• an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
• minimum of 29 holidays and additional 12 holidays in case of full-time employment.
• the successful candidate will first be offered a temporary full-time position (1.0 FTE) 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 next three years is to be expected.

The preferred starting date is 1 April 2022

Job Application

You may apply for this position until 14 February 11:59pm / before 15 February 2022 Dutch local time (CET) 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 20 pages (a published article, thesis or paper, including grade and assessment in the case of thesis or university essays)
• a research proposal of up to 2000 words, addressing the research question:

What discourses, practices and behaviours do religious communities narrate and perform that shape socio-political approaches and responses to promoting the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief and building inclusive societies?

This should include (a) state of the art, (b) key objectives, (c) the proposed (methodological) approach, building on the research design developed by the partners, and details of its operationalization (d) the proposed timetable for the writing of your thesis

• 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.

Note that the procedure will include interviews. Selected candidates will be invited for an interview via online conferencing. Interviews are scheduled to take place in February 2022.

An extended research description is available upon request.

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 Erin Wilson, Associate Professor of Politics and Religion

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 222008

Digital application form