Gepubliceerd op 11-04-2023

Postdoc in Improvised Music and Institutional Whiteness – Utrecht University

We are offering a position for a postdoctoral researcher to form part of the team for the project IMPRODECO: Improvised Music and Decolonisation⁠.

Job description

We are offering a position for a postdoctoral researcher to form part of the team for the project IMPRODECO: Improvised Music and Decolonisation. This project is funded by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council, and will be led by Dr. Floris Schuiling. You will be based at Utrecht University, at the department of Media and Culture Studies and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON). The project team consists of the PI, two PhDs, a Postdoc, and a project assistant. Applications for these positions can be submitted until 5 May 2023.

The project team studies the emergence of free improvisation in Europe in the context of the historical process of decolonisation, with a particular focus on the Netherlands. European improvisers distinguished their so-called ‘non-idiomatic’ free improvisation from jazz and other improvisatory musical practices. At the same time, post-war decolonisation processes meant that more and more musicians from former colonies were making their livelihoods in Europe, with sometimes very different perspectives on the relation between jazz, improvisation, and concepts of musical and political freedom. We investigate whether and to what extent dominant notions of improvisatory freedom have actually excluded the participation of musicians of colour.

To achieve this, the project has three central aims:

  1. to determine the extent to which conceptions of ‘non-idiomatic’ improvisation constituted a form of musical whiteness;
  2. to develop a novel understanding of musical idiom informed by postcolonial critique;
  3. to describe the participation of postcolonial migrant musicians in post-war Dutch and broader Western-European jazz and improvised music.

As part of the first project goal, the postdoc will describe the institutionalisation of free improvisation in the Netherlands, for instance in education systems, professional interest groups, and arts funding policies. In doing so, the postdoc will assess to what extent non-idiomatic improvisation challenged and/or re-inscribed possible forms of institutional whiteness in Dutch music. On the one hand, improvised music clearly posed a challenge to existing Eurocentric, composition-centred notions of musical creativity and aesthetic value. On the other hand, in its claims for musical innovation, its comparisons to contemporary composition, and especially its distinction of non-idiomatic music from jazz, the movement for the advancement of free improvisation as a serious art form may also have perpetuated existing forms of institutional musical whiteness.

Through archival research and oral history, the postdoc will describe to what extent processes of institutionalisation depended on discourses of aesthetic or social merit that privileged white musicians. Since this is a highly specific research topic, applicants have the opportunity to further design or expand on the sub-project based on their expertise, in consultation with the PI. Additional case studies or critical perspectives can be described in the applicant’s research proposal.


The ideal candidate will have a PhD in musicology, ethnomusicology, or another relevant discipline such as history, cultural sociology, anthropology, or cultural studies, with a demonstrable interest in jazz, improvised musics, and/or postcolonial studies.

In addition:

  • You have an excellent command of English, being a native speaker, or possessing a Cambridge Certificate or equivalent at C1 level, or a degree from an English-language university.
  • You preferably have an active command of Dutch, or are willing to learn, as this will be necessary to work with historical sources.
  • You have experience with archival research and/or oral history.
  • You are able to work as an independent researcher, showing initiative, creativity and originality.
  • You are able to work as part of a project team, participating collaboratively in events, training programmes, and project events, and having good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • People with a background in former Dutch colonies are particularly encouraged to apply.

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary position (0.8 FTE) initially for one year with an extension to a total of 2 years upon a successful assessment in the first year.  The gross salary – depending on previous qualifications and experience – ranges between €2960 and €4670 (scale 10 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development, (partly paid) parental leave, sports and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit 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 strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 7,000 students and 1,100 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the Faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city centre of Utrecht, where the faculty is located, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

The faculty strives for diversity among its employees and students and is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone, as can be read in Utrecht University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy.

The core values of the faculty for Humanities are professionalism, transparency, responsibility, connectedness and safety. The core values apply to everyone and we uphold these values in our work and in our communication with each other and with others.

The Department of Media and Culture Studies supports teaching and research in the fields of film, television, games, new media and digital culture, theatre, dance and performance, gender and ethnicity, musicology and cultural policy. Culture is a dynamic mix of artistic, creative and everyday practices with which people shape their identities and actions, and within which societal structures and institutions take shape. Media (old and new) are crucial factors in these processes.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact dr. Floris Schuiling (Assistant Professor) at f.j.schuiling@uu.nl.
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