Postdoctoral Researchers in Anthropology

Postdoctoral Researchers in Anthropology

Published Deadline Location
23 Nov 7 Jan Amsterdam

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Job description

Would you like to work on objects collected during colonial times assembled in (university) museums and related institutions at the intersection of material culture and critical heritage studies, anthropology and history of science, and postcolonial science studies?

The Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is looking for two postdoctoral researchers who will work within research project Pressing Matter - Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums.

Pressing Matter responds to the growing contestation over what to do with the colonial heritage held in museums. This growing controversy reveals the need to account for the divergent positions in these debates, ranging from scholars, activists and community members championing the return of objects to correct historical wrongs, to those who contend that objects should be retained irrespective of circumstances of acquisition by museums in light of their (universal) cultural and scientific value. In the middle are advocates of more relational heritage practices, comprising dialogue and sharing in how objects are distributed.

Pressing Matter is collaborative across five academic institutions and five Dutch museums, working together with national, and international partners from across the world. The project is situated in the Faculty of Humanities at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, led by Prof. Susan Legêne (Project Leader) and Prof. Wayne Modest (Programme Leader), and funded by the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA). The project will be carried out by researchers at different institutions in the Netherlands, including the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. A large team of PhD candidates, postdocs, provenance researchers, museum staff, and junior and senior academics are organized across 8 work packages, hosted in five different universities in collaboration with five museums and several societal stakeholders.

What are you going to do

The two postdoctoral researchers we are looking for will work at one of the eight work packages, titled Valuing Nature, Valuing Science (WP3A) and led by Prof. Amade M’charek (University of Amsterdam) and Dr Laurens de Rooy (Museum Vrolik/Amsterdam UMC).

WP3A will explore objects constituting human and non-human remains that are part of university museums’ collections, in particular Museum Vrolik, Universiteitsmuseum Groningen, Universiteitsmuseum Utrecht and Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (NMvW). The team will conduct comparative research on objects stored at these institutions and examine their valuations by different actors in and outside of scientific practices. The aim is to provide models for re-thinking questions of value of colonial objects in museums, including models for weighing and calibrating contestations in value by different stakeholders. WP3A will examine the valuations of objects (including human and non-human remains) within scientific practices compared with diverse communities of interest, including communities from which these objects originate.

One postdoctoral researcher will focus on human remains in the collections of NMvW, Museum Vrolik, Universiteitsmuseum Groningen and Universiteitsmuseum Utrecht, including skeletal material, wet-preserved human preparations and human plaster casts collected during archaeological, physical anthropological and ethnographic research. The postdoc will conduct: a) provenance research to trace how the human remains came into the collections, b) research into the registers of values attached to the objects based on the different museological categorisations and c) ethnographic research into the values the collections may have for past and present communities of origin, scientists, museum curators and visitors.

The other postdoctoral researcher will adopt similar methodologies to explore the non-human remains in NMvW, Museum Vrolik and Universiteitsmuseum Groningen collected within intellectual and museological frameworks of ethno-archaeology or natural history. We focus on objects collected as part of scientific expeditions to address past and present understandings of these objects, exploring their roles and values for scientific communities, museum curators and visitors, and their communities of origins. This project explicitly analyses natural history objects within the complex network of colonial relations. These objects are rarely included in controversies surrounding colonial collections, despite extensive studies of their role in (early) modern intellectual, collecting and scientific histories, and economic gain.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


What do we require of you

You have:

  • a PhD degree in history/anthropology of science, Science and Technology Studies, anthropology, material culture or heritage studies, preferably obtained before the employment starting date;
  • a record (appropriate to career stage) of publications that demonstrates the ability to conduct research which is internationally recognized as contributing to the field;
  • expertise/interest in working with archival sources and material objects;
  • good organizational and communication skills;
  • the ability to read Dutch (necessary for the archival work);
  • proficiency in spoken and written English.

You are:

  • creative and innovative in your work;
  • intellectually curious and eager to learn;
  • able and willing to work both independently and collaboratively.

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary part-time contract for 30,4 hours per week (0.8 fte). The intended starting date is 1 March 2022, or shortly thereafter. The initial term of employment is for the duration of one year. Upon positive evaluation and satisfactory performance, you will be offered an extension for a maximum of 24 months (for a total employment period of three years).

The gross monthly salary based on full-time employment (38 hours per week) ranges from €3,270 to €5,211 gross per month. This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% end-of-year bonus. The starting salary will be based on qualifications, expertise and relevant experience. The profile researcher 3 is applicable in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities.

The UvA offers excellent possibilities for further professional development and education.


University of Amsterdam

To work at the University of Amsterdam is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterized by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society. Here you can read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences - Anthropology

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG) is the largest social-science educational and research institution in the Netherlands.

The Department of Anthropology is one of the Departments in the FMG. Research and education are carried out by special institutes. The College of Social Sciences and the Graduate School for the Social Sciences are responsible for the undergraduate and graduate teaching programmes in the social sciences. Research takes place under the aegis of the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), a multidisciplinary research institute, the biggest one of its kind in the Netherlands and possibly in Europe. The broad scope and pluralism of our education and research programmes are inspired by and reflect a strong degree of internationalisation.


  • Postdoc
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 30.4 hours per week
  • €3270—€5211 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 21-7707


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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