Netherlands: PhD position in Subsidizing History at Leiden University

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Job description

Since its founding in 1575, Leiden University has built an internationally recognized record of excellence in teaching and research. Leiden University is a founding member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU). From November 1, 2013, the Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) of the Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University will be appointing a full-time PhD for a four-year period within the ERC-funded ARC Starting Grant project A War of Words: What Ancient Manchurian History Does to Korea and China Today, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Remco Breuker.

PhD position in Subsidizing History: State Sponsorship of Academics in South Korea (1.0 fte)
Vacancy number: 13-282

The PhD students will be based in the Institute for Area Studies. LIAS is committed to the integration of disciplinary and regional-historical perspectives, on a solid foundation of excellent language skills, and compromises a School of Asian Studies and a School of Middle-Eastern Studies.

The Project

Since 2003, South Korea and China have been embroiled in a territorial dispute – over ancient states that ceased to exist as such over a millennium ago, in then Manchuria. The confrontation has appealed to the popular imagination in both countries. Amateur historians, artists, and film makers have voiced their opinions in writing, art, movies, and TV, in traditional and new (online) media. Why does the past cause this intense activity in the present? A WAR OF WORDS will engage this complex of Chinese claims to Manchu-Korean ancient history, South Korean reactions, public discourse and cultural expression in both states, and the role of North Korea; and complement and challenge habitual IR and security studies perspectives on Northeast Asia, particularly North Korea, by bringing in historical and cultural perspectives, and foregrounding ancient Manchurian history and its politico-socio-cultural manifestations in the present.

This PhD thesis will inquire into the dynamics peculiar to practices of writing history in state-sponsored projects and the extent to which they reflect government agendas – not just what scholars are invited to study, but how they study it, what they find, and how they present their findings –, for domestic and foreign-based researchers. It will combine analysis of CFAs, grant proposals, research results, and academic and social contexts with interviewing representatives of funding agencies and scholars.

State-sponsored projects, even if they have been funded with an unambiguous political object in mind, are not straight-forward propaganda projects. Its directors are professional historians; its researchers are well-established professional historians as well. Tension between the ambitions that underlie the creation of such a project and the demands of ‘disinterested,’ curiosity-driven historical research is a concern, also for the project’s own historians. In a different manner,  professional historians (whether Korean or foreign) who work with or are subsidized by these state-sponsored projects, are also confronted with this tension. From the research published during the last ten years, this thesis will focus on two research projects carried out by the South Korean state-sponsored projects, viz the history of contestation of the Korean-Manchurian border areas, and the status of Koguryŏ/Gaoguli and Parhae/Bohai as proto-Korean or proto-Chinese states.

Profile: anthropology and/or sociology, history; Korea expertise

Duties and responsibilities

  • Writing a dissertation in English within four years.
  • Submitting research results for publication in international      peer-reviewed academic journals (either individually or co-authored).
  • Co-author a paper for a peer-reviewed journal in the fourth year      with the other members of the project that synthesizes the      findings of the subprojects, ‘putting back together’ – that is,      contextualizing and explaining – from a research perspective the      discursive complex the project aims to unravel.
  • Presenting papers at conferences and workshops.
  • Co-organizing conferences and workshops.
  • Teaching undergraduate courses in the third and fourth year of      appointment.
  • Actively participating in project discussions and working as a peer      reviewer for the team.


  • MA degree in Korean Studies, Cultural Studies, History or a related field.
  • Fluency in English, near native-fluency in Korean and/or Chinese (additionally, passive command of Japanese and Classical Chinese would be      a great advantage).
  • Demonstrable interest in the history of Northeast Asia and the social function of historiography
  • Experience in working with Korean and Chinese language source materials.
  • Willingness to work in an international and highly competitive environment.
  • Willingness to utilize theoretical and comparative frameworks.
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of the team.

Conditions of employment

The PhD position is full-time (1.0 fte) and for four years. Initially you will receive a one year contract. An extension of three years is possible after positive evaluations of capabilities and compatibilities. Remuneration for a full working week will be € 2.083,- gross per calendar month in the first year, increasing to € 2.664- gross per calendar month in the fourth year. An appointment with Leiden University includes a pension build-up and facilitates other benefits such as an annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8.3%. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.


Leiden University

Leiden is a typical university city, hosting the oldest university in the Netherlands (1575). The University permeates the local surroundings; University premises are scattered throughout the city, and the students who live and study in Leiden give the city its relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere.

Leiden University is one of Europe’s foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia.

Additional information

For more information, please contact Prof. Remco Breuker (
Institute for Area Studies:

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