Postdoc Paleoethnobotany & Traditional Food Practices - KITLV-KNAW - Leiden

Postdoc Paleoethnobotany & Traditional Food Practices - KITLV-KNAW - Leiden

Published Deadline Location
20 Jul 2 Sep Leiden

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Job description

Project Description
Driven by the increasing public awareness of the impact of hurricanes and the devastation of coastal areas, Island(er)s at the Helm will contribute to equipping (Dutch) Caribbean societies with proficient tools for confronting these challenging climatic phenomena. Such adverse events have significant ecological, social, and cultural implications, affecting the basic living conditions (water, food, shelter-nexus/WFS-nexus) and heritage of the island inhabitants. This research builds on the principle that local-specific practices and ontologies of Caribbean societies are crucial for promoting sustainable WFS-nexus solutions. The project brings together researchers and societal partners to employ a mixture of technical, traditional, and contemporary knowledge practices for studying climate change adaptation through a long-term perspective. Five inter-related work packages studying the WFS-nexus of the island(er)s will adopt a transdisciplinary research design including: archaeology, paleoecology, (paleo)ethnobotany, social-cultural anthropology, visual arts, performance arts, political science, urban design, urban planning, governance and policy sciences, legal studies, architecture, and civil engineering. 

Island(er)s at the Helm is financed by the NWO Caribbean Research programme. The host institute for this project is the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV/KNAW), in collaboration the University of Sint Martin. 

Job Description
The Island(er)s at the Helm project is looking for a Postdoctoral candidate in Paleoethnobotany & Traditional Food Practices, in the work package “Resilient past communities and traditional knowledge practices”. This work package aims to understand social adaptation to climate challenges in the past to enrich and innovate the current knowledge-practices of island(er)s. 

The team will study the continuities within the discontinuities of the precolonial and colonial histories of the island(er)s, by combining paleo-environmental and archaeological records to understand how people in the (Dutch) Caribbean islands adapted to climate challenges in the past. 

In-depth research of (ethno-)historical sources and ethnographic research into traditional knowledge practices will be collected to understand the ways people, during the pre-colonial and colonial periods, built resilience in terms of water and food management and how they construct(ed) their houses to protect themselves from extreme weather events. This information will significantly contribute to the set of traditional knowledge practices necessary to develop sustainable solutions for social adaptation to climate challenges. 

Paleo-ecological investigations (through analyses of sediment cores) in coastal and mangrove areas will provide records of past vegetation and coastal (marine) ecosystem changes that identify shifts in their health status and functioning through time (in relation to climate change and human habitation). The relation between environmental changes and density, type, and structure of archaeological sites will provide insights into temporal dynamics and resilience (i.e., time of return to pre-impact conditions or adaptations) of coastal ecosystems and associated resources vital for human survival.


Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)


  • Candidates should have a doctoral degree in Anthropology or Archaeology with a specialization in paleoethnobotany;
  • Have knowledge and proven field and lab experience of the full range of methods and techniques in the recovery, identification, and analysis of Caribbean paleoethnobotany’s macro- and microbotanical remains;
  • Demonstrated knowledge and a proven publication record of cross-disciplinary methods and techniques used by both Neotropical paleoethnobotany and paleoecology, such as the recovery, identification, and analysis of microbotanical remains (pollen and phytoliths), other biomarkers (charcoal analysis), and geochemistry data;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of the range of methods and techniques used for collecting botanical and ethnobotanical data, and skills to apply ethnographic work for documenting traditional knowledge from an ethically oriented approach;
  • A proven track record of scholarly activities. The supervision of Ph.D. students and Ph.D. researches in paleoethnobotany and archaeology already completed are prerequisites;
  • Have a strong publication output and research experience, particularly covering the paleoethnobotany and archaeology of the Caribbean as a whole, and a demonstrated publication record covering also the Lesser Antilles and the southern Caribbean;
  • Having knowledge, research experience, and a publication record on the archaeology and paleoethnobotany of the continental Caribbean and the lowland Neotropics is considered a plus; 
  • Have knowledge of precolonial and colonial histories of Caribbean’s food systems;
  • Have the ability to do field and lab work independently, as well as in collaboration with a diverse team of researchers (including paleoecology specialists) and (non-)academic stakeholders and local communities;
  • Have an excellent command of the English language, both in speaking and writing, and structured writing skills in general;
  • Comprehension of Papiamento, Dutch, and Spanish, alongside Caribbean creole English; Haitian Kreyol is considered a plus.

Conditions of employment

KITLV is a KNAW institute. Appointment will be according to the terms of the Collective Labor Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO Nederlandse Universiteiten). 

We offer a part time (0,5 fte) position (19 hours per week)  for four years starting in January 2022. 

Based on the university system of job classification [universitair systeem functieordenen, or UFO], the position is classified as job profile Post-doctoral Researcher [Onderzoeker 4]. 

The gross monthly salary will be based on experience and will be between  € 1.676 and € 1.809 (in accordance with salary scale 10, of the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). 

KNAW offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %) and training and career development. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. In case the applicant is not currently a resident of The Netherlands, the applicant is expected to move.


Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV)

The Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV-KNAW) is an Academy research institute. The KITLV conducts interdisciplinary and comparative historical research. Its research focus is Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, with an emphasis on Indonesia and the ‘Dutch’ Caribbean. It is particularly interested in such issues as state formation, violence and citizenship, processes of mobility and the formation of ethnic and national identity. KITLV is active in the humanities, social sciences and comparative area studies and works closely with Leiden University.


  • Research, development, innovation
  • Agriculture; Natural sciences; Behaviour and society; Food
  • max. 19 hours per week
  • €1676—€1809 per month
  • Doctorate
  • AT2021-107


Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

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