PhD in Indo-Dutch Jazz, Improvisation and Decolonisation (1.0 FTE)

PhD in Indo-Dutch Jazz, Improvisation and Decolonisation (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
17 Feb 31 Mar Utrecht

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We are offering two fully-funded PhD positions to form part of the team for the project IMPRODECO: Improvised Music and Decolonisation.

Job description

We are offering two fully-funded PhD positions to form part of the team for the project IMPRODECO: Improvised Music and Decolonisation:
This project is funded by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council, and will be led by Dr. Floris Schuiling. You will be based at Utrecht University, at the department of Media and Culture Studies and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON). The project team consists of the PI, two PhD candidates, a Postdoc, and a project assistant.

The project as a whole studies the emergence of free improvisation in Europe in the context of the historical process of decolonisation, with a particular focus on the Netherlands. European improvisers distinguished their so-called ‘non-idiomatic’ free improvisation from jazz and other improvisatory musical practices. At the same time, post-war decolonisation processes meant that more and more musicians from former European colonies were making their livelihoods in Europe, with sometimes very different perspectives on the relation between jazz, improvisation, and concepts of musical and political freedom. We investigate whether and to what extent dominant notions of improvisatory freedom have actually excluded the participation of musicians of colour.

To achieve this, the project has three central aims:
  1. to determine the extent to which conceptions of ‘non-idiomatic’ improvisation constituted a form of musical whiteness;
  2. to develop a novel understanding of musical idiom informed by postcolonial critique; and
  3. to describe the participation of postcolonial migrant musicians in post-war Dutch and broader Western-European jazz and improvised music.
As part of this last project goal, the two PhD candidates will describe the currently unwritten history of postcolonial migrant musicians and their role in post-war Dutch jazz and improvised music. One will focus on Afro-Dutch musicians (mostly from Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean), and one will focus on Indo-Dutch musicians from Indonesia.

The role of the PhD candidate (position 2) will be to describe the participation of Indo-Dutch musicians in Dutch jazz and improvised music. Afro-Dutch musicians have made important contributions to Dutch jazz history from the early twentieth century to the present day. Prior to the rise of free improvisation, many successful mainstream jazz musicians in the Netherlands, such as Rob Madna, Eddie de Haas, and Rob, Ruud and Babs Pronk had an Indonesian background. Jazz has been a continuing presence in the Indo-Dutch community, and while invocations of Indo-Dutch identity in jazz have been rare, this seems to be changing in the music of the youngest generation. Through archival research, oral history, and musical analysis, the PhD candidate will describe how these musicians negotiated questions of genre, idiom, and freedom in their musical practice. Since this is a highly specific research topic, applicants have the opportunity to fill in or expand on the sub-project based on their expertise, in consultation with the PI. Additional case studies or critical perspectives can be described in the applicant’s research proposal.


Utrecht University


The ideal candidate has a (Research) Master’s degree in musicology, ethnomusicology, or another relevant discipline such as cultural anthropology, history, or cultural studies, with a demonstrable interest in jazz and/or postcolonial studies.

In addition:
  • You have an active command of English, being a native speaker or having either a Cambridge Certificate or equivalent at C1 level or a degree from an English-language university.
  • You preferably have an active command of Dutch, or are willing to learn, as this will be necessary to work with historical sources.
  • You have experience with archival research and/or oral history.
  • You are able to work as an independent researcher, showing initiative, creativity and originality.
  • You are able to work as part of a project team, participating collaboratively in events, training programmes, and project events, and having good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • People with a background in former Dutch colonies are particularly encouraged to apply.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for 18 months 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. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). 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 Sustainability.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 7,000 students and 1,100 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and education in these fields, the Faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. The enthusiastic and committed colleagues and the excellent amenities in the historical city center of Utrecht, where the Faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

The Department of Media and Culture Studies supports teaching and research in the fields of film, television, games, new media and digital culture, theatre, dance and performance, gender and ethnicity, musicology and cultural policy. Culture is a dynamic mix of artistic, creative and everyday practices with which people shape their identities and actions, and within which societal structures and institutions take shape. Media (old and new) are crucial factors in these processes.

As PhD candidate you will be member of the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON). ICON is one of the four research institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. The researchers are working in six different research fields. PhD candidates are also embedded in the Graduate School of Humanities, which offers seminars and courses to improve your academic skills.


  • PhD
  • Language and culture
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1205651



Muntstraat 2a, 3512 EV, Utrecht

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