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PhD Position on Playing Politics - Platforms: Ambiguity and Escalation

Omvang (fte)
1.0 (4 years)
Geplaatst op
20 juli 2021
31 augustus 2021 Vacature gesloten

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) invites applications for a

PhD Position on Playing Politics - Platforms: Ambiguity and Escalation  

Project description
This PhD position is part of an interdisciplinary project on play and politics, which is conducted by a team of closely collaborating scholars: Prof. dr. Sybille Lammes; Prof. dr. Frans-Willem Korsten, Dr. Frank Chouraqui, Dr. Alex Gekker, Dr. Bram Ieven, and Dr. Sara Polak.

We are looking for an excellent, highly motivated, creative and collaborative PhD candidate to join our project Playing Politics: Media Platforms, Making Worlds. Our project analyses how playful affordances of current media platforms have substantially altered the way in which political actors (politicians, citizens and other stakeholders) respond to, promulgate, and frame political issues. Our hypothesis is that ludic or game-like forms of political mediation or ‘casual politicking’ use such platforms to whimsically and capriciously create worlds, which has made political force fields less predictable. Such ludic or game-like forms manifest themselves as gender-trolling, the use of humorous contradictions, or post-truth discourses, and meme-sharing. This change in how politics is done calls for a reconsideration of how politics works. By analysing ludo-political practices on media platforms, examining the ontological relation between play, contemporary politics and world-making, and theoretically examining media affordances in relation to play and politics, we build an innovative approach for understanding this shift. The project will set a new benchmark for understanding contemporary mediatised politics. It does so by building a comparative conceptual and methodological framework informed by media studies, play studies and philosophy. From this interdisciplinary outset it will develop a much-needed vocabulary to analyse and critically engage with the workings of politics in contemporary post-digital culture.

You will engage with the work of play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith (2001), who argued that it is difficult to understand and define play as it is in essence ambiguous. Through this perspective you will examine social media platforms where political messages shift rapidly in tone and style. The question is: How are playful ambiguities used politically on media platforms and does this require a reconsideration of the seven ambiguities as theorised by Sutton-Smith? To interrogate this you will focus on moments when playful ambiguities become untenable and processes of escalation kick in, by focusing on three cases — trolling, warring, and shaming — from three different media platforms. You will analyse what happens at such occasions when ambiguity is destabilised and playful tactics ‘spill over’ into more risky endeavours. The project traces how these crisis points are reached and concentrates on the potentials of escalation that play and politics share.

Your project will be part of the first subproject ‘Media Platforms, Play, Politics’ that besides of your research part consists of

  1. Metagaming Politics: Playing Politics in the Dutch Post-digital Public Sphere (Bram Ieven);
  2. American Cartoon Politics across Social Media Platforms (Sara Polak).

Key responsibilities

  • Completion of a PhD thesis within four years (1,0 fte);
  • Participation in meetings of the project research group(s) and events co-organised by the research group;
  • Participation in initiatives involving stakeholders outside academia;
  • Co-writing articles and longreads;
  • Co-creating podcasts and other dissemination materials;
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Participation in the training programme of the local Leiden Graduate School, the LUCAS and a National Research School (NICA, Media Studies, or OSL);
  • Participation in staff meeting of the LUCAS Modern and Contemporary cluster and the intellectual life of the LUCAS (PhD) community;
  • Some teaching in the second and third years of the appointment, subject to progress and demand.

Selection criteria

  • You hold a RMA, MA or MPhil degree in Media Studies, STS, Anthropology or any other field that is closely connected to the remit of this project, held by time of appointment, with an MA thesis of high quality with a grade of at least 8.0 on a ten-point scale, or comparable assessment;
  • You are familiar with play as an analytical framework, including but not limited to game studies, rhetoric, media-studies, and anthropology. Written work of any kind within such framework is an additional advantage;
  • You have the ability to meet deadlines and finish the proposed PhD research within the allotted time;
  • You possess well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate relevant and creative research questions and hypotheses, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • You possess excellent competence in English, as well as reading competence in at least one other language;
  • You have affinity with interdisciplinary research;
  • You are a clear communicator and team player and are willing to undertake organizational duties.

Our organisation
Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities is rich in expertise in fields such as philosophy, religious studies, history, art history, literature, linguistics and area studies covering nearly every region of the world. With its staff of 995, the faculty provides 27 master’s and 25 bachelor’s programmes for over 7,000 students based at locations in Leiden and in The Hague.

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is an international, interdisciplinary research institute of the Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University. The Institute hosts academic disciplines and fields in which the relationship between art, popular culture, and society is studied. Strengthened by a great diversity of perspectives and research areas – from art history to media studies; and from early modern theatre to interactive games – the institute strives for a deeper understanding of the historical, creative and social aspects of culture and the arts from classical antiquity to the contemporary world. For more information, see the website of Humanities.

We offer
PhD project, 4 years (38 hrs per week), starting date 1 November 2021. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation. Salary range from 2,548.- to 3,111.- gross per month for a full time appointment (pay scale P, 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 and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information, see the website.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

More information about this position and the project may be obtained from Dr. Bram Ieven, email b.k.ieven@hum.leidenuniv.nl and/or Dr. Sara Polak, email s.a.polak@hum.leidenuniv.nl. Information about LUCAS can be found at the website.

Please submit your application online no later than 31 August 2021 via the blue button in our application system. Your application should include:

  • CV, including contact information of two referees (no reference letters; N.B. please list these in your PDF rather than entering them into the system);
  • Transcript of records;
  • Research proposal of max. 1500 words for one case study in which you explain what kind of ambiguities are at stake in this case. The word count does not include the bibliography and (if appropriate) an appendix containing a list of sources (together max. two pages A4);
  • Copy of relevant diploma.

Only applications received no later than August 31th, 2021 will be considered. Interviews will take place Friday 17 September 2021. For candidates living abroad interviews may be held through an online platform; depending on Dutch government measures for Covid19 the same may apply for candidates living in the Netherlands.

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