Gepubliceerd op 28-11-2023

Postdoc Position The United Nations beyond the West – Leiden University

The Faculty of Humanities, Institute for History is looking for a

Postdoc Position: The United Nations beyond the West (0,8FTE)
Vacancy Number:14291

As per March 1, 2024, the Institute for History of Leiden University will appoint a Postdoctoral Researcher within the ERC – Starting Grant Research Project: Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within, The Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South, 1945-1981 (INVISIHIST), supervised by Dr Alanna O’Malley.

Key responsibilities:

  • Conducting research on the history of the United Nations in the areas of decolonization, economic sovereignty and human rights – especially economic and social rights;
  • Writing 1 peer-reviewed article for publication in peer-reviewed journals engaging non-Anglophone literature on the UN;
  • Managing the production of the podcast arising from the project;
  • Co-organizing the workshops/conferences envisioned within the project;
  • Contributing actively to the project as a whole (e.g., serving as a peer reviewer for other team members, running the project website, organizing project activities, assisting the PI where necessary).

Selection criteria:

  • PhD degree, preferably in the history of international relations, decolonization, and/or the United Nations;
  • One or more relevant publications (journal articles, book chapters);
  • Broad familiarity with the field of international history;
  • Fluency in English;
  • Teaching experience preferable;
  • Excellent writing skills;
  • Proven ability to work both independently and as part of a team;
  • Proven ability to work in an international and highly competitive environment.

About our faculty, institute and programmes
The Faculty of Humanities is rich in expertise in fields such as philosophy, religious studies, history, art history, literature, linguistics, international studies and area studies, covering nearly every region of the world. With its staff of 930, the faculty provides 27 masters and 25 bachelors programmes for over 6,000 students based at locations in Leiden’s historic city centre and in modern buildings in The Hague. This position is part of the research agenda of the Chair in United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice located at the Institute for Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University in The Hague. More information can be found here.

The majority of member-states of the UN identify as members of the Global South. This is a taxonomy that goes beyond a geographical location. It encapsulates how shared agendas led to a sense of solidarity between peoples and states in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The term Global South, rather than Developing World or Third World, is employed to capture both the state, non-state and regional actors who formed part of the movement, not all of whom were located in the Global South. Over time, these actors brought their problems to the UN, in the belief that the organization could provide tangible solutions to global challenges. However, the existing historiography of the UN is largely from the perspective of Western actors, and tends to ignore or downplay the role of Global South actors. These histories enhance the image of the organization as a passive entity and a vehicle for the interests of Western powers such as Britain, France and the United States (US). The liberal world order is presented here as the rules-based system led by the US since 1945 which established an unequal relationship between North and South. This has created the current situation where the UN is broadly misunderstood, and the agency of Global South actors has been rendered largely invisible.

The main aim of this project is to reveal and unravel the invisible histories of the UN, transcending the dominant Western perspective to recover the historical agency of Global South actors. The research will investigate how the UN has both facilitated and limited their role in shaping global order. This will be an important contribution to current debates about UN reform and assessments of its performance, safeguarding against further marginalization of these actors.

Within this overarching project, an 11-month postdoc position is available: The United Nations beyond the West.

The Postdoctoral Researcher should be finished or near the end of their PhD (preferably with an agreed defence date) on a related area of international history with a focus on the UN. The candidate should have familiarity with the literature on decolonization, economic sovereignty, human rights, and international organizations, including knowledge of relevant literature in law and political science. The candidate should also have familiarity working with archives and be able to substantively engage with non-Anglophone and non-Western literature on international organizations, especially in French, German, Italian and Spanish. Additional language expertise is considered an advantage.

The Postdoc will develop two parts of the main project. The first, essential to the overall research project, is to interpret the theme of INVISIHIST, with attention towards structural, methodological and institutional changes were produced in the years under study. The second is a research element which analyzes the reception of Global South initiatives in Britain, France, Germany and the United States which is important to show how changes to the UN were perceived and what were the reactions to, and the success and failures of, efforts to alter political dynamics and redefine norms relating to decolonization and human rights, especially the advancement of economic and social rights.

Terms and conditions:
The postdoc position is (0,8 FTE). The successful applicant will receive a contract until 1 February 2025.

The salary is in accordance with the collective salary agreement of the Association of Dutch Universities (CAO) and depending on qualifications and experience, the gross monthly salary is € 3,226 (scale 10) to € 4,494 (scale 11step 1) for a full working week. Leiden University also offers and annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8.3%.

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%.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

A more extensive project description can be found here.

Applications should be submitted in English and include a:

  • Cover letter;
  • Statement of purpose, which
    • states the ways in which your experience and knowledge would aid the project team in achieving their overall goals;
    • explains what you will contribute to this project overall and how you would develop the outline of your position above;
  • Curriculum vitae with a list of publications;
  • Copy of PhD thesis or publication;
  • Proof of English language proficiency for non-native English speakers or those without an undergraduate degree obtained in The Netherlands or an English-speaking country (IELTS 7.0 or lower will only be considered in exceptional circumstances, e.g. in the case of other compensatory factors such as unique experience and expertise);
  • List of (maximum) two referees for your application (with full postal addresses, telephone numbers, and emails). Referees will be contacted directly by the search committee.


Applications should be submitted no later than 11 December 2023 via the blue button in our application system . Please quote the vacancy number in your application. All requested documents should be sent in PDF format. Interviews will take place online in December 2023. Intended start date is 1 March 2024.

Apply now!

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