Gepubliceerd op 10-11-2022

Postdoc Position Innovating transdisciplinary research: The historical and transnational dimensions of sustainability challenges

Job description

The stories we tell about the past and the futures we envision are interrelated. Hence historical research has a role to play in addressing present-day problems and realizing more inclusive, sustainable futures. However, neither the field of history, nor transdisciplinary sustainability research (which seeks to contribute to such inclusive and sustainable futures) has adequately explored this potential.
Furthermore, many of the sustainability challenges we face here today are tightly intertwined with sustainability challenges elsewhere. Think of the controversies around lithium and graphite mining at various sites in the global South to facilitate the European transition towards electric automobility. Or consider the closure of coal mines in north-west Europe, resulting in the implosion mining communities and livelihoods, and the socio-ecological challenges emerging from the simultaneous start-up of coal mining in Latin America.

Your duties

This postdoc position will focus on developing transdisciplinary research approaches for historical and transnational research purposes to engage with the transnational and temporal dimensions of present-day sustainability challenges, with the aim of fostering more inclusive sustainable futures. You will do so by taking part in a variety of projects. One of these projects, named SOY STORIES, will form the backbone of your postdoc position, which is a project on sustainability challenges in Brazil and the Netherlands which are interconnected through soy. In Brazil, these include large-scale deforestation, land-grabbing, child labor, and more; in the Netherlands, soy-based intensive animal farming gave rise to a 4-decades-long national nitrogen crisis (currently subject to heated debate), public health hazards, greenhouse gas emissions and animal welfare problems. In this project, you will facilitate collaboration with societal partners, both in Brazil and in the Netherlands, and collaborate intensively with two PhD candidates who study the connected Dutch and Brazilian histories of these challenges. This project carried out through a collaboration between the Athena Institute, with its expertise in transdisciplinary, transformation-oriented research (VU), the TU Eindhoven History Lab, with expertise in transnational historical research, and the Soy Observatory and Universidade Federal da Fronteira Sul in Brazil. Publications will focus on conceptual and methodological innovation developed and evaluated during the project, and/or on the ways in which such innovation can inform case-specific soy-related sustainability futures.

SOY STORIES will run throughout the duration of the position, and take up ~20% of your time. In addition, you will spend ~30% of your time on methodological and conceptual innovation in interrelated transdisciplinary research projects at the Athena Institute that fit your expertise and interests, and you will be teaching in courses taught by the Athena Institute (~50% of your time). Your work will be supported by a wider team of committed staff involved in this project and beyond.


We are looking for an enthusiastic, curious and creative candidate with:

  • A PhD in transdisciplinary sustainability research, history or another relevant field, such as science and technology studies (STS), geography, anthropology, sociology, etc.
  • Experience with transdisciplinary research approaches
  • Preferably: practical experience with qualitative (historical) research methods, such as (historical ethnography, (historical) document analysis, (life history) interviewing
  • The ability to work independently and in a team
  • Very good organizational, communicative and connective skills; you will collaborate with a wide variety of academic and societal groups
  • A strong track record and good research skills, writing skills and presentation skills
  • An strong command of the Dutch and English language. Some knowledge of Portuguese (or willingness to learn) is an advantage

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,960 (scale 10)
and a maximum €4,670 (scale 10), depending on your education and experience. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for a period of one year with a possible extension conditional upon assessment of adequate functioning. The maximum duration of the appointment is 4 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and
  • 8.3% end-of-year bonus, solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • possibility to save holiday hours, for sabbatical leave,
  • child daycare facilities available on campus


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.

Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
The position is offered within the Athena Institute, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences. The institute’s mission is to study and design interfaces between science and society to contribute both to a deeper understanding of innovation processes as well as a responsible implementation of research and innovation in society. Athena’s research program amongst other focuses on analysing complex global health challenges, designing interventions and conducting participatory monitoring and evaluation research. The section presently has a position vacant for a Postdoc/Lecturer.
For more information about the Athena Institute visit our website.

Additional information

Closing deadline: 18-11-2022, or when a suitable candidate has been found.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Dr. Evelien de Hoop
Position: Assistant Professor
E-mail: e.de.hoop@vu.nl

No agencies


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.