PhD candidate in South Asian History/ History of Slavery

PhD candidate in South Asian History/ History of Slavery

Published Deadline Location
6 Sep 3 Oct Leiden

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Job description

The PhD candidate will carry out research in the framework of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) funded project "Forgotten Lineages. Afterlives of Dutch Slavery in the Indian Ocean World" led by Prof.dr. Nira Wickramasinghe.

This project explores the paths through which generations of formally enslaved and their descendants gradually forgot their past of enslavement under Dutch and British imperial rule and became local subjects in Sri Lanka and South Africa. It explores why and how forgetting rather than memory became the basis of belonging and selfhood. Sri Lanka was a crucial node of Dutch slave trade activities in the Indian Ocean world connecting present-day South Africa, Mauritius, and Indonesia. "Forgotten Lineages" re-evaluates early waves of European slavery on the island, questions the role of slave ancestry in (re)fashioning communities in creolizing colonial suburbs and analyses the life courses of Sri Lankan enslaved and their descendants, displaced by imperial powers to Dutch and later British Cape Town from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.

The PhD candidate will study a specified topic within the project focusing on a particular period. The PhD candidate will be based in Leiden where s/he will join a research team that will consist of four members: two PhD candidates, one post-doctoral researcher, and the project leader. S/he will participate in regular team meetings and present his/her research findings at scholarly venues, as well as in field trips to Sri Lanka.

Hidden Others. Transitioning from Slavery to Freedom in the Galle Province, 1650-1750
Drawing primarily on rarely used Dutch sources, this PhD-project uses 'forgetting' as a way of understanding multiple procedures that allowed pre-Dutch forced migrants and more recent enslaved people to become 'local' . As the first urban centre and port under Dutch control, Galle and its hinterland are uniquely placed to find life traces of freed slaves with Portuguese and Dutch links. "Hidden Others" blends qualitative and quantitative methods to trace individuals across multiple sources. Lives and family stories will be analyzed against the background of changing social structures in the Galle province that are also reflected in new patterns of urban/rural settlement,histories of graves, cemeteries,churches and mosques, but also in Sinhalese accounts of the period. The PhD project will answer the general research question: Why and how does forgetting rather than memory become the basis of belonging and selfhood?

The candidate will need an expert command of English and Dutch, a thorough knowledge of the socio-cultural history of slavery in the Indian Ocean or Atlantic and a keen interest in social and cultural history.


Leiden University


  • An MA degree in South Asian Studies, or in History. Candidates near completion of the degree will be considered;
  • Knowledge of slavery history;
  • Excellent command of Dutch;
  • Knowledge of /or willingness to learn Sinhalese will be considered an asset;
  • Experience in working with disparate source materials (both textual and material);
  • Demonstrable interest in issues of community formation;
  • Fluency in English;
  • Willingness to work in an international and competitive research environment;
  • Ability to work independently and as part of and in support of a larger team.

Conditions of employment

Terms and conditions
We offer a fulltime, fixed-term post from 10 January 2023 until 9 January 2027. The appointment will initially be for 12 months and if evaluated positively, with an extension of 3 years and must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. The salary range for a PhD candidate is from €2541,- to €3,247,- gross per month (pay-scale PhD candidates in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities), with substantial additional holiday and end-of-year bonuses. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

D&I statement

Diversity and inclusion are core values of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.


Leiden University

Our Faculty/ Institute

The Faculty of Humanities is an international centre for the study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. We take culture broadly to include religions, philosophies, and worldviews as well as literature art, and technology. We aim to contribute to knowledge, the sustainable well-being of societies, and the understanding of the cognitive, historical, cultural, artistic, and social aspects of human life. In research and teaching, we focus on Dynamics of Diversity, meaning the mobility of people, language, culture, ideas, art, and institutions in a globalizing world, and their interconnectivity through the ages. Our faculty is home to more than 7,000 students and 900 staff members. For more information: The PhD candidate will hold a position in the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), home to a large group of experts on the Middle East and Asia from prehistory to the present.


  • PhD
  • Language and culture
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 12601



Rapenburg 70, 2311EZ, Leiden

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