Three full-time doctoral candidates in the fields of history, digital humanities, children’s... (# of pos: 3)
University of Antwerp

Three full-time doctoral candidates in the fields of history, digital humanities, children’s... (# of pos: 3)

Belgium 07 Jun 2021


University of Antwerp
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07 Jun 2021
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Department: Department of History
Regime Full-time

Let’s shape the future - University of Antwerp

The University of Antwerp  is a dynamic, forward-thinking, European university. We offer an innovative academic education to more than 20 000 students, conduct pioneering scientific research and play an important service-providing role in society. We are one of the largest, most international and most innovative employers in the region. With more than 6000 employees from 100 different countries, we are helping to build tomorrow's world every day. Through top scientific research, we push back boundaries and set a course for the future – a future that you can help to shape.

The Departments of History, Literature and Philosophy in the Faculty of the Arts are looking for

three full-time (100%) doctoral candidates in the fields of history, digital humanities, children’s literature studies and/or visual criticism

The three PhD candidates will collaborate in an interdisciplinary GOA project called “Understanding Ideological Bias through Data-Driven Methods”. Ideological bias concerning age, gender, ethnicity and social class is one of the most important ethical concerns in contemporary society. From racism in social media, over sexism in advertising, to ageism and class prejudice in societal governance: all human interaction is structured by bias on explicit and implicit levels. Recent studies have demonstrated that novel machine learning methods (from A.I.) not only capture but amplify the ideological biases in the data they are trained on. The current project aims to strategically turn this undesirable property to our advantage. By analyzing a large corpora of historical data (c.1800-c. 1940) through state-of-the-art digital humanities methods, we aim to elicit implicit patterns and trends relating to ideological bias and confront these with received knowledge. By being embedded in recent cognitive studies, the project will be able to make claims on how implicit bias functioned in the past, understanding better what people thought and how such thinking structured behavioral interactions with their surrounding world.

Recent cognitive studies make clear how ideological biases largely result from processes of social learning. To study the construction and dissemination of ideological bias through history we put forth three work packages (WP) in crucial areas of social control: education (children's literature), mass communication (magic lantern slides and performances), and regulation (police reports). We offer a PhD position for each of these three work packages respectively. The PhD students will be supported by two supervisors and a postdoctoral researcher with expertise in Digital Humanities.

  • WP1: Implicit bias in illustrations in Dutch-language children’s literature (PhD1): what implicit biases with regard to race, gender, age and social class can be detected in the images of children’s books in the Dutch Digital Library DBNL?
  • WP2: Implicit bias in magic lantern slides and performances (PhD2): the optical lantern functioned as a mass medium in the transmission and negotiation of knowledge, norms and values: how did bias more particularly originate in colonial slides, temperance slides, children’s slides and science- and religion series?
  • WP 3: Implicit bias in Dutch- and French -language police reports of events taking place in the street (PhD3): how did bias structure everyday interactions taking place on the streets of modernizing cities? What role did gender-bias, class and age prejudice and ethnic profiling play in the streets?

Job description

  • Embedded in the interdisciplinary GOA project “Understanding Ideological Bias through Data-Driven Methods”, you will work on either WP 1, 2 or 3, investigating cognitive social learning processes through the historical analysis of a specific set of past data (c.1800-c.1940)
  • You will work actively on the preparation and defence of a PhD thesis in the field of History, Literature, and/or Digital Humanities.
  • You will publish scientific articles/book chapters related to the research project. These publications can be co-authored with other project members and external researchers.
  • You are involved in the valorisation program of the GOA project, communicating the results to different target audiences – from professionals working on ideological bias, over secondary schools to heritage institutions working on historical data.
  • You participate in the research activities of the GOA project, as well as the different research centres involved (Centre for Philosophical Psychology, Antwerp Centre for Digital humanities and literary Criticism, Centre for Urban History, and the Research Centre for Visual Poetics).

Profile and requirements

  • You hold a Master degree in History, Literature, Digital Humanities, Visual Culture and Performance Studies (or an allied discipline) or you will have obtained it by the time you start work.
  • Students in the final year of their degree are encouraged to apply.
  • You can demonstrate excellent study results. Previous academic work, publications and expertise will be taken into account.
  • Demonstrable experience with digital methods used to transcribe historical sources and analyse textual and visual source materials is a strong plus.
  • Your palaeographic skills are excellent if you apply for WP3.
  • You have an affinity working with historical sources and applying textual and/or visual analysis to large corpora of historical data.
  • You are fluent in Academic English and Dutch. Knowledge of French is also required for WP3.
  • Your research qualities are in line with the faculty and university research policies .
  • You act with attention to quality, integrity, creativity and cooperation.
  • You have strong communication skills

What we offer

  • We offer a full-time doctoral scholarship for a period of two years. Following a positive evaluation, the scholarship can be renewed for another two years.
  • The planned start date is 1 September 2021 or as soon as possible after that date.
  • Your monthly scholarship is calculated according to the scholarship amounts  for doctoral scholarship holders on the pay scales for Contract Research Staff (Dutch: Bijzonder Academisch Personeel, BAP).
  • You will do most of your work at UAntwerp City Campus in a dynamic and stimulating working environment.
  • Find out more about working at the University of Antwerp here .

Want to apply?

  •  You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform up to and including 7 June 2021 (by midnight Brussels time). Click on the 'Apply' button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: (1) a motivation letter, (2) your academic CV with Bachelor and Master qualification (including grades or marks), (3) a separate statement explaining your motivation for the relevant vacancy (WP1, 2 or 3).
  • The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure. 
  • If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions  or send an email to . If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact Prof. Dr. Bence Nanay ( ); Prof. Dr. Mike Kestemont ( ); Prof. Dr. Vanessa Joosen ( ); Prof. Dr. Kurt Vanhoutte ( ); or Prof. Dr. Ilja Van Damme ( ).

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award  for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity  and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.

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