Within the research project “Abolition Democracies – Transnational Perspectives”, funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, two doctoral fellowships are available for a period of three years.
The term “abolition democracy” was introduced by sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois in 1935 in his major work Black Reconstruction. One of his basic ideas was that mere formal emancipation from slavery is not enough, but must be accompanied by a fundamental political and economic reconfiguration of the entire society that made slavery possible. Similar perspectives were already developed in many anti-colonial liberation struggles, for example in Canada and the Caribbean: Mere release from colonial rule is not enough if it does not also imply a more fundamental economic and political justice.
Various theorists and political initiatives have subsequently taken up the notion of abolition democracy to recall the unfulfilled aspirations and demands associated with these movements. Fueled by the international Black Lives Matter protests, over the past decade abolitionism has established itself as a comprehensive approach to critical theory and as a current of radical political practice, particularly in North America but also internationally. This movement is underpinned by a similar double perspective that Du Bois already formulated: on the one hand, abolitionist theories scandalize the racist background of mass incarceration and police violence; on the other hand, these institutions should not simply be eliminated while leaving social background conditions intact, but replaced by other institutions of social, political, and cultural participation, such as infrastructures of care and venues for political self-government. The seemingly utopian goal remains the gradual abolition of carceral institutions altogether.
This research project: 1.) sharpens the concept of “abolition democracy” as a productive contribution to the current debate on democratic theory, 2) explores what impulses can come from abolitionism as a political movement and philosophical approach for the reduction of social violence in the coming democracy, 3) reflects on the transnational transferability of local experiences with social transformation processes to other contexts. Within this framework, two PhD positions are available:
- Democracy and Violence in the US: Subproject 1 explores the feasibility of implementing abolition democracy under current real political conditions. Using recent experiences in the US as an example, it investigates promises, but also pitfalls of abolitionist strategies, and draws preliminary conclusions for future abolitionist attempts.
- Colonial Continuities, Abolitionist Lessons: Subproject 2 reconstructs abolitionism as a specifically decolonial transformation strategy. To this end, it first traces the colonial continuities of carceral techniques using various local examples (such as Australia, the Maghreb, and Canada). The aim of the project is to then prepare the abolitionist discourses within these contexts in such a way that they can be read as impulses for the contours of a coming democracy.
- Conducting research in the respective subproject, leading up to a finalized dissertation,
- Participating in other activities of the project, such as bi-weekly colloquia and reading groups,
- Participating in organizing workshops and conferences,
- Participating in other ASCA activities.
The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Your research will be part of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), one of the five research schools of the Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research. ASCA is home to more than 100 researchers and more than 140 PhD candidates, and conducts world-leading research in Cultural Analysis. ASCA members share a commitment to studying culture in all its forms and expressions within an interdisciplinary framework, and to maintaining a close connection with contemporary cultural and political debates.
Available are two PhD positions that come with a stipend of 1600,00 EUR per month, funded by the Gerda-Henkel-Foundation, for a period of three years. In addition, a supplement is available for a period of up to nine months for a research stay abroad, as well as funds for field work, transcription, conference travel, etc.
The ideal candidate:
- Holds a very good MA (or equivalent) in philosophy or a related discipline within the Humanities or Social Sciences,
- Has a demonstrable expertise and interest in abolitionist theory and practice, either through academic or activist work (or ideally both), as well as a broad expertise in contemporary critical theory,
- Is committed to collaborative and multi-disciplinary research and has a collegial attitude,
- Has excellent English skills,
- Has gained international experience, for example through studying abroad or an internship.
To apply, please send the following documents:
- A motivation letter (1-2 pages)
- An outline of PhD project (not more than 10 pages). In case your project entails an empirical element, please lay out the methods you intend to use as well as your field access. All outlines should include an idea for an extended research stay abroad; explain which university / universities you would like to be affiliated with and how this would benefit your overall project.
- A tentative schedule for the dissertation project
- A CV
- A writing sample of no more than 20 pages on an abolitionist issue (can be published or for example a chapter of your MA thesis)
- A copy of your MA certificate.
Please refrain from sending letters of recommendation.
Please send all documents in one PDF file to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is April 15th, 2022. Interviews will probably take place in the first half of May via Zoom.