Netherlands: PhD position in Uses and Abuses of Manchurian Pasts 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 Uses and Abuses of Manchurian Pasts: Informal Historiographies and National Identity-Korea (1.0fte)
Vacancy number: 13-283

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.

The PhD thesis, concentrating on South Korea, will show how various social actors interactively construct pre-Qing Manchurian heritages in the arts, media, and public discourses in South Korea. Amateur historians, journalists, artists, bloggers and other commentators (re)produce and appropriate different Manchurian pasts, with different agendas. The theses will map, contextualize, and interpret these informal historiographies as a social process across national borders. Primary focus will go to cinema and TV production, and related internet discourses.

Academic  historians are players in a variegated social field of production of meaning, where diverse actors engage the past in different ways for different purposes. This project thus adheres to the definition of history as a social process, and pays particular attention to unconventional Korea- and China-inflected historiographies of Manchuria, produced either outside the realm of traditionally recognized authoritative sources, or by a rereading of these sources. It focuses on the social relevance of history and historical representations, approached through various disciplines and thematics, such as history, cultural studies, and popular culture.

Profile: cultural history, heritage studies, media studies and/or sociology; Korea and China expertise.


  • 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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