PhD position Dutch international development research in geography and its intertwinement with the Dutch international development field (1949-2000) (1.0 FTE)

PhD position Dutch international development research in geography and its intertwinement with the Dutch international development field (1949-2000) (1.0 FTE)

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16 Oct 1 Dec Utrecht

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Investigate the mutual influence and growth between the nascent fields of the human geography of developing countries and international development corporation!

Job description

Would you like to examine the science-society interface between the field of international development cooperation and academic work in geography on international development issues? Or more specifically: What was the role of geographic research and teaching in shaping ideas, labour markets practices, institutions and interventions in the emergent field of international development in the second half of the 20th century (1949-2000)? Then you are welcome to join our team.

The project is funded by NWO as part of the VIDI Grant “Academic Impact Strategies for Long-term engagement (AISLE) led by Dr. Michiel van Meeteren.

When new societal issues gain prominence and become subject to government policy and funding, usually an associated field of knowledge and practice emerges. Academic disciplines tend to compete to become the recognised experts in these fields in order to shape knowledge and policy to the terms of their discipline and be able to tap in emergent funding streams and labour markets. Such a dynamic certainly took place when in 1949, the inaugural speech of US Harry Truman forebode the new field of “international development cooperation”. In the context of rapid decolonisation and an emergent cold war, a new international expertise to alleviate poverty, and bring economic and social development, came into being.

Although the Netherlands was an earlier contributor to this field, it is not until the 1960s that development cooperation becomes a major concern for the Dutch government and civil society. However, in the 1960, the “third world movement” really takes off, the number of NGOs and the government budget for development aid grows at an exceptional rate. At the same moment, a new specialisation in the field of human geography, “the human geography of developing countries” quickly becomes one of the more dynamic subfields in the discipline.

In the subsequent decades, this new subdiscipline seemed to be able to have a significant influence on the Dutch field of international development. Many international development geography graduates find steady employment within government institutions and NGO’s and become part of the process how and where Dutch development policy takes place. This strong and explosive emergence and intertwining of societal and scientific fields is quite extraordinary. It is not clear yet under what conditions this dynamic mutual relationship has developed and became successful and fruitful for both society and science. Understanding the drivers and barriers within this relationship is of crucial importance to both academia and policy. Both within development geography and for more general debates on impact and the science-society interface.

This PhD position investigates the mutual influence and growth between the nascent fields of the “human geography of developing countries” and the field of “international development cooperation” in the Netherlands in the 1960-2000 period. The resulting PhD thesis will be the first dedicated history chronicling the mutual rise of international development cooperation and the human geography of developing countries and is intended to shed light on how this science-society interface works in detail.

The PhD trajectory’s prime data source will be collecting oral histories in combination with an extensive alumni survey. In addition a new digital archive of 20th century publications, documents and correspondence will be generated. This digital archive is designed in such a way that state of the art methods developed in the digital humanities and computational social science could be applied. Given this broad methodological scope, a multi-method research design will be developed and applied. The project also engages in community engaged learning with the contemporary international development community to learn for the future from the past.

The PhD will be systematically uncovering, documenting, cataloguing, and tracking the mutual influence between academic education and research and the practical field in Dutch international development geography. This influence could be direct, both intellectual through academic publications and presentations and societal through advisory work, or indirect, through the job market and social and professional networks of students and peers. We will be examining the social networks of development specialists as well as the role of applied research centres, conferences and the like.

Tasks as part of the PhD will be co-designing a national alumni survey, collecting oral histories from practitioners and to build a large digital repository of relevant studies, policy documents and other archival documents. In subsequent research phases, research will focus on the digital curation and analysis of these materials in order to make assessments of impact. Lastly, the PhD will be involved in co-organising workshops and mixed classrooms to debate research findings with practioners working contemporarily in the field of international development cooperation.


Utrecht University


We are looking for an enthusiastic, motivated team member with the following competencies:
  • You have a Master degree in Human Geography, International Development Studies, History, Science and Technology Studies, Public Administration, Sociology, or a related field with a clear affinity for geographical and/or historical research.
  • You have experience and/or a strong interest in a combination of archival research and oral history research.
  • You have experience and/or a strong interest in co-creating a large scale alumni survey.
  • You are fluent in Dutch (because of the archival language and interviews), and have excellent academic writing skills in English.
  • You have affinity with debates around international development cooperation, and the role of academia in society.
  • You are intellectually curious, flexible, and quality conscious, have planning and time management skills, a collaborative attitude and good communication and social skills.

Candidates with a specialisation in any of the mentioned methods are encouraged to apply for this PhD position.

Conditions of employment

We offer:
  • a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period;
  • a full-time gross salary between €2,770 in the first year and €3,530 in the fourth year of employment in scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO);
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements, sports and cultural schemes and you get discounts on software and other IT products. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow.

For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Pathways to Sustainability. Sharing science, shaping tomorrow.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning investigates sustainability challenges in the context of an ongoing worldwide trend of increasing urbanisation. The Department’s ‘Urban Futures’ research programme focuses on the enhancement of long-term economic developments of cities, the inclusion and social inequalities in relation to transnational mobilities, the health outcomes of urban living as well as on the governance and planning of sustainability transformations of cities and urban regions. It develops novel theoretical and empirical approaches that are not solely at the forefront of academic debates but that also create new perspectives on successful policies and interventions to address urban challenges.

Our research programme is the basis for our research Masters Human Geography and Geographical Information Management and Applications and professional masters in Spatial Planning, Human Geography and International Development Studies. The department also runs a large and highly appreciated bachelor program and is part of the Netherlands Graduate School of Urban and Regional Research for PhD candidates. Unique characteristics of the department are a special team focusing on innovations within teaching methods, a centre of expertise which brings the knowledge from fundamental research outside our university by educational programs for high-school teachers, and professional consultancy for public partners.


  • Postdoc; Research, development, innovation; PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1216027



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