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Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within, The Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South, 1945-1981 (INVISIHIST)

As per September 1, 2020, the Institute for History of Leiden University will appoint three

PhD candidates within the ERC: Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within, The Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South, 1945-1981 (INVISIHIST)

Project description
The main aim of this project is to reveal and unravel the invisible histories of the UN, transcending the dominant Western perspective to recover the historical agency of Global South actors. The research will investigate how the UN has both facilitated and limited their role in shaping global order. This will be an important contribution to current debates about UN reform and assessments of its performance, safeguarding against further marginalization of these actors. Within this overarching project, 3 PhD positions are available, each at 0.9 FTE for a duration of 4,5 years.

PhD project 1: African Activism at the UN
This project will be carried out by a candidate with expertise in African history. Knowledge of the French language is essential, knowledge of relevant African and other languages will be an advantage.

This PhD project will examine the contributions of 2-3 small to large states in Eastern and Western Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania) in the thematic areas. They will define what perceptions of the UN were, the relationship of these countries to others in the region and internationally (especially considering the interplay between Pan-Africanism and African nationalism) and what their role was in developing agendas for reform. This project will trace the contribution of these countries to developments in the area of decolonization, economic development and human rights and should draw connections between the selected cases and other actors in Asia and Latin America. In particular, the project should highlight different African conceptions of decolonization and show how these played out in the general debates at the UN, providing a precursor for economic development and human rights. The PhD researcher will conduct relevant research in national African archives, UN archives and relevant archives of non-state actors such as the African Union in Addis Ababa.

PhD project 2: Beyond Bandung, Asia at the UN
This project will be carried out by a candidate with expertise in the history of Asia and/or South-East Asia. Knowledge of the relevant languages will be an advantage.

This PhD project will examine the contributions of 2-3 small to large states in Asia/South East Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Thailand) in the thematic areas. The research must include either China or India (with a preference for both) among other countries. The project will examine the contributions of these actors to decolonization, economic sovereignty and human rights generally, before focusing on one key aspect. In particular, the project should examine how the role of Asian states evolved from the Bandung moment in 1955, to their strong role in contesting the meaning of development in the 1970s. The candidate will conduct relevant research in national Asian and UN archives, especially ECOSOC and UNCTAD and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi and the archives of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok among other non-state archives.

PhD project 3: Latin America and the UN
This project will be carried out by a candidate with expertise in the history of Latin America. Knowledge of the Spanish language will be essential, knowledge of Portuguese will be an advantage.

This PhD project will examine the contributions of 2-3 small to large states in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador) and the Caribbean nations. The project will analyze the contributions of the selected actors to decolonization, economic development and human rights. In particular, it will investigate how Latin American actors forged alliances with African and Asian counterparts at the UN around issues of economic development. It will trace the emergence of the agenda for the creation of UNCTAD and examine how this was transformed into a wider crusade for the NIEO. It will also investigate how meanings of human rights were contested and examine in particular the contributions of the actors to the creation of the ICESCR. The candidate will conduct research in relevant national archives and the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean in Santiago. They will also conduct research in the archives of ECOSOC, UNCTAD, Frondizi Archives, Centro de Estudios Nacionales, Buenos Aires and Raúl Prebisch Papers, Prebisch Foundation, Buenos Aires, among others.

Key responsibilities

  • Conducting research on the history of the United Nations in the areas of decolonization, economic sovereignty and human rights – especially economic and social rights, see separate project outlines below;
  • Writing an English-language PhD thesis within four years;
  • Writing two (single- or co-authored) articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Presenting draft articles or thesis chapters at conferences or workshops;
  • Co-organizing one of the workshops envisioned within the project;
  • Contributing actively to the project as a whole (e.g., serving as a peer reviewer for other team members, contributing to the project website and the podcast);
  • If possible: contributing to undergraduate teaching;
  • Contributing to the program and activities of the Chair in United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice.

Selection criteria

  • MA degree, preferably in the history of international relations, decolonization, and/or the United Nations;
  • Broad familiarity with, and deep interest in, the field of decolonization, international history and diplomatic history, and the United Nations;
  • Evidence of excellent academic potential;
  • Excellent writing skills in English;
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team;
  • Ability to work in an international and highly competitive environment.