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PhD student – Later-in-Life Intimacy: Older Women’s Unruly Practices, Places and Representations (LiLI)

Job description

Within an ERC-funded project focusing on older women’s sexuality (Later-in-Life Intimacy: Older Women’s Unruly Practices, Places and Representations (LiLI)), a PhD position is offered. The starting date will be 1 January 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. The appointment will be full-time (38 hours per week). The position is for four years (provided positive periodic evaluation) with a salary according to standard Ghent University regulations for PhD students. Project summary: “Almost half a century ago, Simone de Beauvoir denounced what she called the ‘conspiracy of silence’ in public and scholarly debates about women growing older. Little has changed since then. In spite of the expanding number and proportion of older women in the population and the changing cultural norms regarding sexuality, older women are still often overlooked in research, and their sexuality in particular is still a taboo. Older women are supposed to become asexual and when their sexuality is considered, it is interpreted within a medicalized and phallocentric framework that starts from young adult standards. So far, social sciences and humanities have failed to develop a viable alternative to this line of thinking. The proposed project aims to rectify this significant gap in research and break the silence around older women and sex. A multi-disciplinary team of scholars with expertise in anthropology, social geography, cultural studies and feminist philosophy will collaborate and tackle challenging research questions in order to acquire a fundamentally new, affirmative understanding of women’s later life sexuality. A radical multi-method ethnographic research methodology will be developed, (1) based on long-term participant observation in various settings and (2) with a specific focus on ‘unruly’ sexual strategies of older women across different social categories. By uncovering counter-hegemonic knowledge of older women—knowledge that usually stays under the radar of academic attention—the project has great potential to revolutionize how we look at women, old age, and sex. A shift in thinking is needed because the prevalent conceptualizations are blatantly oppressive for older women. Moreover, the project’s methodological-theoretical design that brings older women’s subversive sexual strategies to the forefront of research has also the potential to open the way for radical changes in feminist theorizations of intersectional power, sexual desire and ageing.” The PhD researcher will be based at Ghent University, Ghent (Belgium), being part of the research team led by Prof. Dr. Katrien De Graeve, as well as actively participating in the academic life of the Department of Languages and Cultures, and more particular of the Centre for Research on Culture and Gender during the period of the contract. The PhD researcher is expected to work in Ghent and conduct fieldwork in Belgium. S/he/x will work under supervision of Prof. Dr. Katrien De Graeve and will be exposed to a supportive and productive research environment. More specifically, s/he/x is expected to carry out the research related to the first component of the study, which focuses on subversive practices of women older than 50 years of age.

Profile of the candidate

Required Languages:

  • A high level of proficiency in spoken and written academic English – Good language capabilities in Dutch and/or French and/or a language that is spoken by a relatively large community in Belgium (e.g. Turkish, Arabic, Farsi, Polish, Russian, Italian, Spanish, etc.) to be able to undertake the necessary field research.

Skills, qualifications:

  • A Master’s degree in Anthropology with excellent qualifications at undergraduate and masters level. Candidates with a Master degree in other social science disciplines, such as Sociology or Gender Studies will also be considered provided that they have acquired extensive experience with ethnographic research methodology.
  • Acquaintance with ethnographic research methodology and interpretive/reflexive epistemology and constructivist ontology is a must.
  • A strong interest in gender studies, sexuality studies and gerontology studies, and acquaintance with at least one of these fields.
  • Being able to work independently while closely collaborating with other team members.

The successful candidate will be expected to:

  • Undertake ethnographic fieldwork in selected settings and in collaboration with the rest of the team
  • Publish one or two articles or book chapters in collaboration with supervisor and/or other team members and successfully complete a PhD thesis within a period of four years
  • Follow the Ghent University doctoral training programme
  • Partake in and co-organize meetings, seminars and conferences within the scope of both the ERC project and the research centre & department.
  • Participate in relevant academic conferences in Belgium and/or elsewhere
  • Provide limited assistance in teaching and administration Women and minority candidates are especially encouraged to apply.

How to apply

All applications must be submitted by email (katrien.degraeve@ugent.be) before 31 October 2019. In the subject of the email, please specify for which position you are applying (component 1, 2 or 3). Please send a single PDF file including:

  • Motivation letter (why do you want to join the project and what can you bring to the project?), with brief description of previous research and/or other experience or accomplishments that demonstrate your suitability for the position.
  • A research proposal (1 page) describing research ideas related to the project description (including the theoretical approach and expertise you might contribute to the project and potential research sites and analytical-methodological approach)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Names and contact addresses of two academic references, who will be contacted for recommendation letters after the applicant is shortlisted.

Please also include in the email one published or unpublished paper or MA thesis which demonstrates your critical analysis and writing skills. Shortlisted candidates will be notified by the end of November 2019. Job interviews (face-to-face or Skype) will take place in the second week of December 2019. Decision letters will be send the fourth week of December 2019.