Gepubliceerd op 18-03-2019

PhD Position in project Remembering Activism: The Cultural Memory of Protest in Europe

Job description

Remembering Activism: The Cultural Memory of Protest in Europe, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), is being carried out at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON), Utrecht University (2019-2024). Principal Investigator (PI) is Prof. Ann Rigney (www.rigney.nl). ReAct recently recruited 2 PhDs and 2 post-docs and is now looking to recruit a third PhD. This is a renewed call with a revised project description.

Aims of ReAct
Mass demonstrations are newsworthy. But how are they remembered when they are no longer news? Social movements are usually studied in terms of their emergence and subsidence. Despite recognition that activists are ‘inspired’ by precedents, the afterlife of activism in story and image has never been systematically explored. ReAct claims that knowledge of this cultural memory is needed for a full understanding civil resistance.

The project will provide the first in-depth account of the remembering and forgetting of activism in Europe since the late 19th century. It aims to reveal continuities and changes in how protest has been depicted in different media regimes; demonstrate the role of texts, images, and commemorative practices in conveying the memory of protest to later generations; and show how this memory feeds back into later movements at home and abroad.

The project is designed around case studies from periods of heightened activism in Europe: 1871-1914; 1960-1975; 2011-2012. The different subprojects follow 3 intersecting lines of inquiry: mediation (what cultural forms and media technologies have been used to turn activism into transferable knowledge?); afterlives (how has the memory of particular movements been culturally transmitted?); memoryscapes (how have later movements referenced earlier ones?).

ReAct has an opening for one PhD researcher. This is a renewed call with a revised project description. Appointment will start on 1 September 2019 at the latest.

The Phd project will be part of the Workpackage: Afterlives of Activism

The overall objective of Afterlives of Activism is to explain how the memory of activism has been culturally produced, and to identify the cultural constituents of memorability in the case of protest. What cultural filters and amplifiers have worked to promote the memory of certain figures and episodes above others? What has been the role of particular media technologies (print, photography, television, social media) and of the arts in the shaping and reproduction of that memory? Underlining all of these questions: how has the cultural transmission of hope related to the memory of (violent) defeat?

This work package consists of three subprojects each focussing on cases from a different period: 1871-1914; 1960-1975; 2011-2012. Comparison between cases is expected to yield general patterns in the interplay between mediation, memory, and activism across different cultural and political regimes.

->  3.2. Remembering the Death of Demonstrators 1960


This PhD project will focus on the cultural memory of protest movements of the 1960s-1970s as this has been shaped and transmitted over a 60-year period. There will be a particular focus on the link between the memory of civil resistance and the memory of violence against demonstrators (either self-inflicted as in the case of self-immolation; or inflicted by state forces in the killing of demonstrators). It aims to (1) identify and explain how violence against demonstrators has been remembered across time in different media ecologies and shifting political contexts (what images, texts, songs have been produced and reproduced relating to the event in question); (2) explain the mobilizing power of defeat combined with hope. The project tests the hypothesis that combinations of contradictory elements—inspiration and violence, agency and defeat, youthfulness and death – generate intense commemoration.

The research will adopt a case-study approach and combine close reading and distant reading to explore the changing meaning of a particular event (self-immolation, civic massacre) across its multiple mediations both at home and abroad. The event(s) chosen should have become a site of (counter) memory and generated a significant cultural afterlife. The cases may bear on demonstrations anywhere in Europe taking place in the period 1960-1970. Applications bearing on Eastern Europe and Turkey are particularly welcomed.

Applicants are invited to submit a research proposal of max 1000 words outlining their chosen case and how they would approach it in light of the overall aims of the project. Successful applicants will have a demonstrable capacity to conduct original academic research in cultural memory studies in a collaborative setting.

Your tasks as PhD candidates will include:

  • completion and defense of a PhD thesis within four years; regular presentation of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • publication of at least two articles in journals or edited volumes;
  • co-organisation of project workshops and conferences;
  • participation in all project-related activities, including outreach activities;
  • some teaching duties in year 2 and 3;
  • participation, where relevant, in the training programmes offered by the UU Graduate School of Humanities, the National Research Schools, and the Mnemonics network.


  • a completed (research) MA degree in a relevant discipline (a.o. Literary and Cultural Studies, Cultural History, Media Studies, Cultural Anthropology);
  • an excellent academic track record;
  • demonstrable affinity with cultural memory studies and/or social movement studies;
  • skills in searching archives as well as in interpreting cultural artefacts and practices;
  • excellent English, academic writing and presentation skills;
  • ability to read primary source materials in the languages relevant to the particular subproject;
  • ability to meet deadlines and work both as an independent researcher and as a team member;
  • good organisational, social and communication skills.

Conditions of employment

The appointment will be full-time (1.0 FTE), initially for a period of 18 months. Upon a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 30 months (4 years in total). The gross monthly starts at €2,325 in the first year, and ends at €2,972 in the fourth year (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) gross per month for a full-time employment.

Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-the-year allowance of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions . You will find here more information about working at Utrecht University.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 6,000 students and 900 staff members. It is made up of four Departments: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature, and Communication. Enthusiastic and committed faculty members and excellent amenities in the historical city centre of Utrecht, where the faculty is housed, make for an inspiring working environment.  Members of the ReAct team are attached to the Research Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON) and to the Department of Languages, Literature, and Communication (TLC).

Apply here.
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