PhD Researcher Creativity, Authenticity, and Cultural Mediation

Faculty/Services:  Faculty of Humanities
Educational level:  Master
Function type:  Academic Staff
Closing date:  31 August 2022
Vacancy number:  9218



The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) currently has a vacant PhD position as part of the ERC-funded research project Fashioning Power through South-South Interaction: Re-thinking Creativity, Authenticity, Cultural Mediation and Consumer Agency along China-Africa Fashion Value Chains, led by main researcher dr. Tommy Tse. ASCA is one of the five Research Schools within the Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research. ASCA is home to more than 120 scholars and 160 PhD candidates, and is a world-leading international research school in Cultural Analysis. ASCA members share a commitment to working in an interdisciplinary framework and to maintaining a close connection with contemporary cultural and political debates.


What are you going to do


This PhD position is embedded in the ERC-funded research project Fashioning Power through South-South Interaction: Re-thinking Creativity, Authenticity, Cultural Mediation and Consumer Agency along China-Africa Fashion Value Chains. The aims of the project are 1) to move beyond a Western-centric epistemology to map the chains, restraints and materialities of China’s power expansion through everyday fashion; 2) to collect and triangulate empirical information along complete South-South commodity chains through multi-sited ethnography, semiotic and visual analysis, individual and focus group interviews, wardrobe archival studies, and other digital methods; and 3) to provide evidence of how Chinese-African fashion industries impact upon the social, cultural, economic and affective lives of Eastern African consumers in the context of increasing globalisation, digitalisation, consumerism, and China’s ambition abroad.


While the ERC-funded research as a whole will use an assortment of research methods to map out the (1) production, (2) trade, (3) retail, and (4) consumption processes of fashion products along the China-Africa fashion value chains, the PhD researcher – focussing on one of the four subprojects – will primarily focus on the second stage (trade) and work closely with one Postdoc researcher (first stage, production) in the fieldsites, the main researcher (dr. Tommy Tse), and another full professor from the Media Studies Department (as co-supervisor).


The PhD’s research includes the following:

  • Conducting ethnography in key trading sites in China in his/her second and third year of study, including wholesale markets, trade shows and online trading platforms (the fieldsites are primarily based in Guangzhou, but may also extend to other Chinese cities following the full fashion value chains);
  • Building rapports and carrying out formal interviews and informal dialogues with various actors (e.g. designers, traders, trend forecasters, wholesalers), observing their everyday work procedures, work conditions and online-and-offline social interactions with others, and partaking in both their work-related and leisure activities;
  • Joining the full research team for a short multi-sited ethnographic visit to Eastern Africa (Nairobi, Kenya and/or Maputo, Mozambique) in his/her third year of study.


Your tasks and responsibilities:

  • Conducting research and completing a PhD thesis within the period of appointment;
  • Publishing three peer-reviewed journal articles within the period of appointment;
  • Setting up and managing project data (while taking into consideration the project’s risk analysis, and complying to its data management plan);
  • Participating in the meetings of the project, and closely collaborating with the main researcher, 2 other Postdoc researchers, and 1 other PhD;
  • Assisting with knowledge dissemination and with the organization of project workshops, conferences and a creative exhibition;
  • Presenting research results at national and international workshops and conferences;
  • Contributing to the content of the project website with your research findings.


What do you have to offer


You are passionate about developing innovative strategies for combining humanities and social science research of fashion, media and culture. You are interested in media and cultural theory, non-Western fashion and its connections to current debates on China’s global power and cross-cultural exchange. In addition, you have a social and cooperative attitude, and you thrive in a team setting. You are curious and open-mined towards research traditions you are less familiar with.


Your experience and profile:

  • A relevant Master’s degree in the Humanities or Social Sciences, on a topic relevant to the project, completed no later than 31 August 2022;
  • Outstanding research qualities manifested in strong transcripts;
  • Demonstrable knowledge and experience of the following research methods: ethnography; participant observation; individual interviews; narrative, semiotic and visual analysis;
  • Demonstrable experience working with theoretical frameworks, and a keen interest in the research fields central to the project: media and cultural studies, fashion studies, globalization theory, South-South relations, and China studies;
  • Excellent written and spoken English (IELTS certificate of qualification 7.0 or higher), and a high-level of proficiency in/understanding of Mandarin and/or Cantonese;
  • Team spirit and experience working in an interdisciplinary, international setting;
  • Willingness to travel abroad for fieldwork, research stays, conferences and workshops;
  • Strong interpersonal, analytical and organizational skills.


Experience in digital methods and knowledge in Portuguese and/or Kiswahili will be a plus.


Please note that if you already hold a doctorate/PhD or are working towards obtaining a similar degree elsewhere, you will not be admitted to a doctoral programme at the UvA.


Our offer


The PhD researcher will be appointed at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. The first temporary contract will be for 16 months, with an extension for 32 months, contingent on a positive performance evaluation within the first 12 months. The employment contract is for 38 hours (1,0 fte) a week. The preferred starting date is 1 January 2023.


The gross monthly salary, based on 38 hours per week and relevant experience, will be €2,443 during the first year to reach €3,122 during the fourth year, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. This sum does not include the 8% holiday allowance and the 8,3% year-end allowance. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants.


What else do we offer

  • PhD candidates receive a tuition fee waiver.
  • PhD candidates have free access to courses offered by the Graduate School of Humanities and the Dutch National Research Schools.
  • Excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.
  • An enthusiastic, inspiring and professional academic team in the centre of Amsterdam.
  • The opportunity to collaborate with leading researchers at research institutes that – partly as a result of their interdisciplinary approach – are world renowned.


About us


The University of Amsterdam (UvA) is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.


The Faculty of Humanities provides education and conducts research with a strong international profile in a large number of disciplines in the field of language and culture. Located in the heart of Amsterdam, the faculty maintains close ties with many cultural institutes in the capital city. Research and teaching staff focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and are active in several teaching programmes. Its Media Studies Department, which hosts this project, is ranked 1st in the 2022 QS World University Rankings in Communication & Media Studies for the fifth year in a row.


Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.




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Job application


If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. You can apply online via the link below. The deadline for applying for this vacancy is 31 August 2022, 23:59 CEST.


Applications should include the following information (submitted in one pdf file):

  • A letter, motivating your reasons for applying, and detailing why you are an excellent candidate for the position (500-800 words);
  • Your curriculum vitae, listing at least: full address and contact details, education, professional employment and language proficiency. Also include grants/honours, conference presentations,  academic publications and creative work (e.g. photography, art and design), if applicable;
  • Transcripts of your Master’s (or equivalent) degree, and of your Bachelor’s degree;
  • The names and contact details of two referees familiar with your academic record and research skills, including your Master’s thesis advisor. They may also be approached by the selection committee;
  • For non-native English speakers: IELTS certificate or equivalent;
  • Only complete applications received within the response period via the link below will be considered.


The interviews will be held over Zoom on 30 September/14 October 2022 (tentative).



The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.


If you encounter Error GBB451, reach out to our HR Department directly. They will gladly help you continue your application.


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