Gepubliceerd op 05-12-2023

Postdoctoral Researcher in African and Global History – Ghent University

About Ghent University
Ghent University is a world of its own. Employing more than 15,000 people, it is actively involved in education and research, management and administration, as well as technical and social service provision on a daily basis. It is one of the largest, most exciting employers in the area and offers great career opportunities. With its 11 faculties and more than 80 departments offering state-of-the-art study programmes grounded in research in a wide range of academic fields, Ghent University is a logical choice for its staff and students.

Your tasks
The History Department at Ghent University is recruiting one postdoctoral researcher for the ERC Starting Grant Project ‘CATTLEFRONTIERS – (Post)Colonial Cattle Frontiers: Capitalism, Science and Empire in Southern and Central Africa, 1890s-1970s’ (2023-2028), under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Samuël Coghe.

CATTLEFRONTIERS explores how colonialism, global capitalism and science transformed cattle production in Southern and Central Africa during the colonial and early postcolonial period. From the 1890s to 1970s, (post)colonial governments, scientists, entrepreneurs and settlers promoted a broad range of interventions to overcome the allegedly uneconomic attitudes of African pastoralists and turn cattle into profitable commodities. Adopted, adapted, contested or eluded by African cattle herders and owners, these interventions transformed pre-existing cattle economies, pastoralist societies, rural ecologies and animal populations in many and often unexpected ways.

CATTLEFRONTIERS breaks new ground by offering the first history of these transformation processes from hoof to table, for multiple empires and over a long time frame, and by integrating them into global history through the concept of ‘commodity frontiers’ (see Joseph 2019; Beckert/Bosma/Schneider/Vanhaute 2021). It pursues these objectives through a series of interlocking case studies on French, Portuguese and Belgian (post)colonies in Southern and Central Africa (most notably French Congo, Madagascar, Angola, Mozambique, Belgian Congo, Ruanda and Burundi).

These case studies relate to 4 lines of inquiry, of which the fourth will be managed by the postdoctoral fellow:

  1. ‘The Biological Frontier: Veterinary Knowledge, Technologies and Animal Bodies’
  2. ‘The Mental Frontier: Pastoralist Subjectivities, Colonial Control and Market Integration’
  3. ‘The Socio-Ecological Frontier: Land, Environment and Labour’
  4. ‘The Commercial Frontier’: Production, Trade and Consumption of Cattle Commodities’: starting from a case study on the supply of Central Africa’s twin cities Brazzaville and Léopoldville/Kinshasa with cattle products (such as beef, dairy, hides etc) during the colonial period, this line of inquiry investigates changing intra-African imperial and transimperial trade patterns; the emergence of new production, transport and selling infrastructures such as slaughterhouses, refrigerating techniques and retail markets; and changing consumption patterns.

Case studies on the first three lines of inquiry will be conducted by three doctoral fellows. The PI’s case study will combine the four lines of inquiry.

The case studies will draw on multi-sited archival work and, to some extent, oral history, combining approaches from colonial, African, global, social, economic and environmental history, as well as from the history of science and medicine.

More specifically

  • You will focus on ‘The Commercial Frontier’ and conduct the corresponding case study. It is
    recommended that you work on the suggested case study on Brazzaville and
    Lépoldville/Kinshasa, but you will be encouraged to bring your own ideas to the topic and to
    help shape research on both this line of inquiry and case study.
  • You will contribute to the outputs of CATTLEFRONTIERS, most notably by (co-)authoring
    publications; co-organizing workshops, conferences and lecture series; presenting your results
    at international workshops and conferences; and contributing to the project’s website and
    social media accounts.
  • You will assist the PI in managing the research group and mentoring the PhD students in the
  • You will assist the team with administrative and organizational support.
  • You will actively contribute to the activities of the research group Economies, Comparisons,
    Connections (ECC) and of the History Department at UGent in general.
  • You will, where appropriate, share research data and collaborate with other team members.
  • At least 70% of your assignment will be spent on academic research.

What we are looking for

  • You hold a thesis-based doctorate in History, African Studies, Anthropology or a closely related
    field, obtained max. 6 years before the start date of the position (this term is determined by the
    date written on the above-mentioned required diploma). Due to UGent requirements, you have
    not worked more than 4 years as a postdoc at the start date of the position.
  • You are highly motivated to work on your case study and to be an active member of an
    international research team.
  • You already have research experience on colonial history, global history and/or the history of
    sub-Saharan Africa (not necessarily on Central Africa).
  • You are capable of producing high-quality written work in English and potentially also in French, which is already visible in a strong track record of high-quality publications.
  • You have excellent reading skills in English and French.
  • You have very good communication skills.
  • You are willing to do part of your research in Brazzaville and Kinshasa, and the areas/countries that provided these cities with cattle products.
  • Knowledge of Portuguese and of relevant African languages is considered an advantage, but no prerequisite.
  • Preferably, you have documented international experience in academia.
  • Preferably, you have completed your first monograph or you have a manuscript in a final stage by the start of this position.

What we can offer you

  • We offer you a full-time contract of indefinite duration with a maximum term of 2 years.
  • Your contract will start on 1/04/2024 at the earliest and preferably before 1/06/2024, but this can be negotiated.
  • Your remuneration will be determined by salary scale PD1. Click here for more information about our salary scales. Please note that the gross salaries in this table need to be balanced with the current index.
  • If you are eligible for an international mobility appointment, a postdoc fellowship will be offered. In that case, the fellowship amount is 100% of the net salary of a postdoctoral staff member (WP) with the same level of seniority and in equal family circumstances. The exact amount will be determined by the Department of Personnel and Organization (DPO) at UGent. Depending on bilateral agreements between Belgium and your country, it includes full or partial social security benefits (health ensurance, child allowance, pension rights and unemployment benefits). A grant that meets the conditions and criteria of the regulations for postdoctoral scholarships is considered free of personal income tax.
  • You will be allocated office space and a laptop, and receive funding for archival research and fieldwork, and for attending workshops and conferences.
  • You will join one of the largest history departments in the Benelux with a strong focus on African history, extant in three professorships and as many ERC projects.
  • You will be a member of a cutting edge research group with international scholars funded by the prestigious European Research Council.
  • You will also be part of the interdisciplinary research group Economies, Comparisons, Connections hosted by the History Department.
  • You will receive a wide range of career development opportunities through the UGent Postdoc Talent Management Program, including participation in training and mentoring programmes and membership in the UGent Postdoc community.
  • You will have the possibility to join the N.W. Posthumus Institute, the Research School for Economic and Social History Institute in the Netherlands and Flanders, and/or the UGent Sarton Centre for History of Science.
  • All Ghent University staff members enjoy a wide range of benefits, such as training opportunities, at least 36 days of holiday leave per year (on an annual basis for a full-time job), a vacation allowance and end-of-year bonus, compensation for public transport or a biking allowance, access to student restaurants and cafetarias, favourably-priced sport courses, eco vouchers, etc. Click here for an overview of staff benefits.
  • Ghent University assists with finding adequate childcare in Ghent, and runs several daycare facilities for children aged 3 months to 3 years. Click here for more information on childcare and schooling.
  • For international scholars, Ghent University also offers guidance for moving to Belgium (including for family members) and for getting your work permit (if applicable). Click here for more information.


Apply online through the e-recruitment system before the application deadline. We do not accept late or incomplete applications or applications that are not submitted through the online system.

Your application must include the following documents:

  • In the field ‘Cover Letter’: a letter of motivation in which you state your interest and explain how you fit the criteria for this position.
  • In the field ‘CV’: your Curriculum Vitae, including the name, position, institution and email address of 2 referees, who may be contacted for recommendation.
  • In the field ‘Diploma’: a copy of your PhD degree, if already in your possession.
  • In case you have a foreign degree in a language other than a Belgian national language (Dutch, French, German) or English, please add a translation in one of these languages.
  • If your PhD degree is not yet in hand, please submit your MA degree and evidence of the imminent completion of your PhD until the start of your contract (for instance a letter of your supervisor stating the viva date).
  • In the field ‘Other Documents’: two writing samples – as publication or manuscript – of what you consider to be your best work (PhD thesis, article, book chapter, etc.).

Note that the maximum file size for each field is 10 MB.

As Ghent University maintains an equal opportunities and diversity policy, everyone is encouraged to apply for this position.

More information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact contact the PI of CATTLEFRONTIERS, Prof. dr. Samuël Coghe (Samuel.Coghe@UGent.be). Important: do NOT send your application by email, but apply online.

Do you have a question regarding the online application process? Please read our FAQ or contact helpdesk (dpo@ugent.be – tel. 09/264 98 98).

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