PhD position Humor and Free Speech (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Arts


University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has established an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative university offering high-quality teaching and research. Its 36.000 students are encouraged to develop their own individual talents through challenging study- and career paths. The University of Groningen is an international centre of knowledge: It belongs to the best research universities in Europe and is allied with prestigious partner universities and networks worldwide.

The Faculty of Arts is a large, dynamic faculty in the heart of the city of Groningen. It has more than 5.000 students and 700 staff members, who are working at the frontiers of knowledge every day. The Faculty offers a wide range of degree programmes: 15 Bachelor's programmes and over 35 Master's specialisations. Our research, which is internationally widely acclaimed, covers Archaeology, Cultural Studies, History, International Relations, Language and Literary Studies, Linguistics and Media and Journalism Studies.

Job description

We are offering a 48-month PhD position (full time, 1.0 FTE) within the project ‘Forensic Humor Analysis: Rethinking Offensive Humor and Its Legal Regulation’, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) with a five-year Vidi grant (Principal Investigator: Dr Alberto Godioli, University of Groningen). The appointed candidate will have an expertise in humanities-based humor research – with particular regard to literary, cultural and/or linguistic approaches to humor –, as well as a strong interest in working within an interdisciplinary context.

The project (henceforth ForHum) aims to establish a new line of interdisciplinary research. In light of insights from literary theory, linguistics and cultural studies, it addresses the interpretive issues faced by courts of law in cases concerning humorous material (e.g. jokes, cartoons or memes). In dialogue with free speech associations and lawyers, we aim to contribute towards a more consistent, fairer approach to humor within free speech jurisprudence.

In addition to the Principal Investigator and the PhD position advertised in this vacancy, the ForHum team also features a postdoc researcher with a legal background (36 months, 2022-2025). The PhD will play a major role in one of ForHum’s two sub-projects, which will analyze a selection of humor-related legal cases (from the European Court of Human Rights and national courts in the Netherlands, UK and France) in a literary, cultural and linguistic perspective. This sub-project will be conducted jointly by the PhD and the Principal Investigator.

This PhD project offers a unique opportunity to work in an international research environment as well as to acquire valuable teaching experience: the PhD candidate is expected to conduct 0.3 FTE teaching during the second, third and fourth year of their appointment (0.1 FTE yearly).

Tasks and responsibilities:

• carrying out the sub-project described above in collaboration with the Principal Investigator
• contributing to the successful advancement of ForHum as a whole, and to the spirit of interdisciplinary exchange characterizing the project
• presenting research results at workshops and conferences, and publishing academic articles
• engaging in public outreach and knowledge utilization activities related to the project
• participating in regular meetings with the other project team members, and assisting the Principal Investigator in communication tasks (e.g. co-managing project website, writing blog posts)
• conducting 0.3 fte teaching during the second, third and fourth year of their appointment (0.1 fte yearly).


• (Research) MA degree in Literary Studies, Cultural Analysis, Linguistics or another related discipline. Candidates who expect to obtain their degree before 1 November 2022 are also eligible, and may be offered a position conditional upon successful completion of the Master degree
• a demonstrable interest and expertise in humor research
• excellent research skills (as shown, for instance, by the candidate’s MA thesis)
• excellent command of English; proficiency in Dutch is also highly desirable
• a strong interest in collaborative research and interdisciplinary dialogue
• enthusiasm for communicating academic research to non-academic audiences.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

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

- a salary of € 2,541 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,247 gross per month in the final year, based on a full-time position
- a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance
- a temporary appointment of 1.0 FTE for a specified period of four years. The candidate will first be appointed for twelve months. After six months, an assessment will take place of the candidate’s results and the progress of the PhD project, in order to decide whether employment will be continued.

You will be enrolled in the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH) of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen. The GSH offers the organizational infrastructure within which PhD candidates participate in advanced training and supervised research:

You will be carrying out your research in the context of the Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG).

The prospective starting date is 1 February 2023

Job Application

You may apply for this position until 8 September 11:59pm / before 9 September 2022 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on “Apply” below on the advertisement on the university website)

Applications should include:

1. A letter of motivation (max. 800 words), explaining why you are a suitable candidate for this PhD position
2. A curriculum vitae demonstrating your academic excellence, including a list of publications and presentations (if applicable)
3. A short reflection (800-1000 words) on the potential insights offered by a literary, linguistic and/or cultural approach to humor-related legal cases regarding freedom of expression. This could also consist of a concise discussion of a selected legal case (e.g. one of those discussed in Godioli, A. and Little, L. “Different systems, similar challenges: humor and free speech in the United States and Europe”, HUMOR, vol. 35, no. 3, 2022, DOI:
4. A proof of writing, such as an academic paper or a chapter from your MA thesis
5. Certified copies of your BA and MA degrees (in case of an on-going MA degree, please include a letter from your thesis supervisor, certifying that the degree will be obtained before 1 November 2022)
6. Contact information of two academic referees who are familiar with your work, and whom we may contact directly if we need more information.

Applications have to be submitted electronically in PDF format by means of the application form (please merge all documents into one PDF file and upload it as you ‘Letter of motivation’, in the order in which they are listed above). Applications that are incomplete or are otherwise faulty will not be taken into account.

The selection interviews will take place in the first week of October 2022.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:[…]/

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 Alberto Godioli (for information on the position and the research project)

Lisanne Coolen (for questions regarding the submission procedure)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 222536

Digital application form