Two PhD candidates for the project: Imagining invention and inventors and the role of nature
Leiden University

Two PhD candidates for the project: Imagining invention and inventors and the role of nature

Netherlands 24 Apr 2021


Leiden University, located in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands.


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Nonprofit organization
Host Country
24 Apr 2021
Study level
Opportunity type
Eligible Countries
This opportunity is destined for all countries
Eligible Region
All Regions

Vacancy number 20-421

Function type Academic staff

Hours (in fte) 2.0 (2 positions)

External/ internal External

Location Leiden

Placed on 24 September 2020

Closing date 24 April 2021

Two PhD candidates for the project: Imagining invention and inventors and the role of nature

Ineke Sluiter (Leiden) and Casper de Jonge (Leiden); additional supervisory expertise dependent on the needs of the project

More vacancies for this project can be found on the website.

Project description
New ideas and inventions that affect social life cannot thrive unless they are somehow embedded in the society for which they are intended. Innovation will always be connected somehow—both in the ways it is communicated and perceived, and in terms of content—to what people know, believe, want, value, and can understand. This is true even of radical, path-breaking, ‘revolutionary’ ideas and insights. This phenomenon of ‘anchoring’ is central to the new research agenda of the Dutch classicists.

In Classical Antiquity, one way in which this ‘anchoring’ is realized is through narratives of inventors and inventions, a rich genre providing a social biography for the accoutrements of human life. Writing, seafaring, building houses, making sacrifice to the gods: there is a great concern with establishing the pedigree of these phenomena, which are often associated with specific ‘culture heroes’, gods, and other inventors, who act as ‘Agents of Change’. Sometimes we find ideas about collective invention, for instance of language and speech. There are also a few instances of women inventors. Stories of the prôtoi heuretai help to structure and anchor the past of a group. Today we can still identify modern ‘myths of invention’, featuring for instance (stereotypical) inventors, lone wolves and geniuses, and epics of endurance, sudden insights and serendipity. Modern narratives of invention thus also have a recognizable discourse of their own.

A particularly fruitful anchoring topos is to use the inspiration of natureartis natura magistra. This is particularly obvious in stories of technological inventions, as when the bones of a fish inspire the invention of the comb. On the other hand, human technology and cultural advances can also be perceived as a threat to the natural order: humankind trespasses on the domain of the gods, and hubristically exceeds its natural limits.

This nexus of ideas deserves in-depth exploration in the context of our Anchoring Innovation program. We invite structured PhD proposals with ideas on the discourse, themes, scenarios, and cognitive and social functioning of these stories of inventors and inventions of all kinds, the ‘rhetoric and poetics of invention and inventors’. And we also are looking for a study of the role of nature in the cultural imagination of invention, inventors, and human culture.

Candidates are invited to design a structured PhD proposal (title, research question, scholarly background, aims, method, corpus) around these questions. They are free to adopt a literary or linguistic approach, one related to theories about Agents of Change, or based on ancient philosophy (ethics). In their proposals, they should outline their suggested approach, main research question, and expected original contribution to the field.

Key responsibilities

Selection criteria

Host institution
The Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University is a unique international centre for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. Our faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members.

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is one of the seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. LUCAS is dedicated to ground-breaking research that explores the multifaceted relationships between the arts and society. For more information see the website

Terms and conditions
We offer a PhD position for 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1, 2021. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation. It is possible to extend the position over 5 years at 0,8 fte. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. Salary range from € 2.395 to € 3.061 gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for PhDs, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

The Anchoring Innovation program is strongly committed to diversity within its team and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

Enquiries about the position can be addressed to Ineke Sluiter, email Questions about the procedure can be directed to Suzanne van de Liefvoort, email

More information about the Anchoring Innovation research agenda of OIKOS can be found on the OIKOS website, including an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda”.

We deliberately scheduled a long period between this announcement and the deadline for submission so that candidates have ample time to prepare their own versions of the projects outlined above. We know that the design of a good project takes time and effort. Do not hesitate to contact your prospective supervisor about this.

In order to be admissible, applications must include the following information (in the same order), in one PDF file (not zipped):

Please submit your complete application to Suzanne van de Liefvoort, the coordinator of the Anchoring-programme via no later than 24 April, 2021. Interviews will take place in the week of May 24-28, 2021. For candidates living abroad interviews may be held through an online platform.

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