Gepubliceerd op 04-07-2023

PhD Candidate in History of Islam/Arabic Studies (project 1) – Leiden University

PhD Candidate in History of Islam / Arabic Studies

The Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University invites applications for a fulltime PhD position in the history of Islam. The PhD candidate will carry out research in the framework of the European Re…

Job Description

Scholars have long recognized that although Shiʿi claims emerged early in Islamic history, Imami Shiʿism took a couple of centuries to crystallise. Scholarship on Shiʿism has tended to focus on doctrine, but hitherto there has been little research into the institutions and social networks of early Imami Shiʿism. The project aims to propose the first rigorously historical model for how, when and why a distinctive Imami Shiʿi Imamate emerged and developed as an institution. The ImBod project will frame the Imamate as a set of social interactions between the Imams, and the community who venerated them, within the broader networks of the early Islamic empire. Members of the ImBod project team will be assigned particular thematic spheres in order to identify and study the networks, actors, institutions, spaces, objects and processes through which the Imamate was mediated and performed within the Imami Shiʿi community and beyond.

The project will bring together a broad array of sources (material, documentary and textual) and approaches, both traditional close-reading and computational analysis in order to approach the vast, challenging textual corpus of Shiʿi and non-Shiʿi texts that bear on the development of the Imamate.
3 positions will be available within the ImBod team: a PhD candidate; a Postdoctoral researcher (3 years); and a Postdoctoral researcher (2 years).

PhD project (project 1): The household of the Imams

This project will involve conducting research related to the following questions: how were Imams and the Imamate produced in the context of the Imam’s household and the networks of family? How did householders and close family members mediate the image and influence of Imamate to the community beyond? The candidate for this position will therefore have to work to develop a specific project topic within this broad area. The candidate will look at two distinct bodies of literature in particular: the genealogies in which the names and relations between the members of the extended families of ʿAlids were included; and hagiographical reports in which the details of the lives of the Imams were narrated, often via purported eyewitnesses from within the household of the Imams. It is anticipated that key analytical frameworks will be those of kinship, gender and purity. The Imamic household was a key location for the production of (the image of) the Imami Shiʿi Imamate. The Imams were not only spiritual leaders, but also human bodies embedded in processes of birth, procreation, death and succession. These processes were also intrinsically implicated in the process of producing new Imams. This project will involve identifying key sites and rituals for production of Imamate in the intimate spaces of the household: such as procreation, birth, education, death and the designation of a successor. Close attention will be paid to the agency of women close to the Imams, and the ways in which the representations of the Imam are embedded in the historical institutions of family, kinship, concubinage, the legal institutions of marriage and slavery, the purity rituals which governed key aspects of household praxis, and legal and customary institutions governing the procreation of children.

More information about the project can be found here.

Key responsibilities:

  • Write a PhD dissertation
  • Submit at least 1 article for publication
  • Work towards editing a special issue or edited volume in collaboration with other team members
  • Attend regular in-person team meetings
  • Prepare and process textual resources for computational analysis by the project team as a whole
  • Present research at international workshops and conferences
  • Assist in event planning and organisation



  • Excellent (medieval) Arabic reading skills
  • A Master’s degree in a related field
  • Excellent command of the English language
  • Ability to develop original research
  • Commitment to working in a team
  • A willingness to embrace new approaches, including digital humanities (no prior experience necessary)

Conditions of Employment

Terms and conditions
We offer a fulltime, fixed-term post from 1 February 2024 until 31 January 2028. The appointment will initially be for 12 months and if evaluated positively, with an extension of 3 years and must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. The salary range for a PhD candidate is from €2,541,- to €3,247,- gross per month (pay-scale PhD candidates in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities; negotiations for a new CLA are ongoing), with substantial additional holiday and end-of-year bonuses. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

D&I statement
Diversity and inclusion are core values of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.


Our Faculty/ Institute
The Faculty of Humanities is an international centre for the study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. We take culture broadly to include religions, philosophies, and worldviews as well as literature, art, and technology. We aim to contribute to knowledge, the sustainable well-being of societies, and the understanding of the cognitive, historical, cultural, artistic, and social aspects of human life. Our faculty is home to more than 7,000 students and 900 staff members. For more information: https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/humanities. The PhD candidate will hold a position in the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), home to a large group of experts on the Middle East and Asia from prehistory to the present.

Additional Information

Enquiries can be made to the project’s PI, Dr Edmund Hayes: e.p.hayes@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Information about LIAS.
Information about the Faculty of Humanities.
Click here for more information.


Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.