The PhD will focus on the study of self-accomplishment in Eastern Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Burundi, and Mozambique may also be considered) as defined in the SALMEA project (see the summary below). 

Possible research topics are therefore varied and may cover a wide range of issues related to violence, kinship (including family formation and identity), religion, and wealth (including land ownership) in Eastern Africa.

Work Context

The PhD candidate will be attached to IMAF (Institut des Mondes Africains) in Aix en Provence. Based in Paris and Aix en Provence, the institute brings together scholars with an interest in Africa who are affiliated with the CNRS, IRD, EHESS, EPHE, the University of Paris 1, and Aix Marseille University (http://imaf.cnrs.fr/). In Aix, the institute’s facilities are located in the MMSH (Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme (http://www.mmsh.univ-aix.fr/), 5 Rue Château de l’Horloge, 13090 Aix-en-Provence). Funding will be provided for extensive research in East Africa. A double affiliation with IFRA (Institut Français de recherche en Afrique, http://ifra-nairobi.net/) in Nairobi is advisable. 

The position is being offered in the context of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche’s (ANR) co-funded project, “Self-Accomplishment and Local Moralities in East Africa” (SALMEA). The selected candidate will serve as a full member of the project and will be fully integrated into the team’s activities.

SALMEA project summary:

In East Africa, fast-changing social realities informed by structural change have fundamentally affected authority, ownership, inheritance and kinship. This has transformed representations and practices of social roles, moral attitudes, and self-accomplishment, that is, shared ideas about a well-led and successful life and ways to realise it. Among the characteristics that define self-accomplishment and intersect with ethnicity, religion, gender, class, and generation, we mainly find access to wealth, respectability, authority, honor, fame, and posterity. This project aims to study the ways in which people in East Africa shape their lives to access and transmit wealth, obtain authority and power, and gain respectability and social influence using different repertoires of principles and values.

In other words, its main objective is to understand the dynamic relations between self-accomplishment and morality. To do so, we will scrutinize four areas: wealth, violence, religion and kinship; they constitute both repertoires of morality and paths to self-accomplishment. Indeed, narratives on a life well-led link up aspects of wealth and kinship. Ethnicity and religion also offer their specific answers as to how to lead one’s life. What happens when aspirations putting wealth and family at the centre of one’s life are unattainable? Violence and religion translate into new forms of self-accomplishment.

Although analytically distinct, the economic, political, social, and symbolic facets of self-accomplishment cannot be studied independently: e.g. wealth commands respect, while respect can facilitate wealth. Earlier literature on Central Kenya show, for instance, that self-accomplishment for men had long been obtained through access to land for cultivation, and through marriage and children; yet, men who failed in these dominant trajectories of self-accomplishment could turn to other paths, for example relocating to new territories where ‘virgin’ land could be cleared, or raiding neighboring communities for cattle, women, and children. In today’s East Africa, achieving self-accomplishment through the acquisition and cultivation of land is increasingly out of reach for both men and women.

People test or even invent alternative ways to access wealth, obtain social influence, and gain respect; these alternative ways combine historical models with new representations and practices, drawing from religious, ethnic, national or globalized repertoires of references; and men, women, and youth create and use different ways to reach a life well-led.

Constraints and risks

The successful candidate will be allowed to write his/her doctoral dissertation either in French or English. 

He/she will be enrolled at the Aix Marseille University Doctoral School ED 355 (https://ecole-doctorale-355.univ-amu.fr/). In extraordinary cases, special arrangement may be considered (dual affiliation, other doctoral schools, etc.) provided that a manageable administrative solution exists.

The successful candidate’s residence in Aix en Provence or in the wider region of Aix-Marseille is compulsory. However, much geographical mobility is expected, both in the context of fieldwork and in order to participate in SALMEA’s varied event (conferences, research meetings, etc.). In addition, the successful candidate will be expected, as all other members of SALMEA, to take up his/her full share of collective and administrative duties.

Additional Information

The candidate must have obtained, or be close to obtaining, an MA or an equivalent degree in a relevant field (demography, history, geography, anthropology, political science etc.). The candidate is expected to demonstrate sufficient skills in both French and English so as to adapt quickly to the working and research environment in Aix and in East Africa. 

Selection will involve a two-stage process, starting with the consideration of submitted application, and followed by interviews with selected candidates (on July 1st 2019). 

Applications must include: 

– A detailed CV;

– A one-page cover letter;

– A 3-page proposal for a doctoral project (candidates should not shy from contacting potential PhD supervisors, be they members of SALMEA or not);

– One or two referees (that may be contacted if needed by the committee);

– Grades for Master 1 and for Master 2 (if already available);

– A PDF copy of the Master 2 dissertation (if already available, and even if not yet defended);

– If the Master 2 dissertation is not yet available, the candidate will sent a PDF copy of the Master 1 dissertation, his/her detailed undergraduate grade sheet and a letter from his Master 2 supervisor including an evaluation of the candidate’s performance and an estimate on the expected completion of the candidate’s dissertation. 

In the case of applicants with academic degrees from outside the French system or with non-standard evaluation, the requested items hereby stipulated may be adapted to equivalent demands within the French system.

Click here for to submit your application.

The closing date for sending applications is June 12th 2019.

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