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PhD Position: Mapping the Popular Fulani Digital Networks in the Sahel and their Entanglement in Conflict

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PhD Position (38 hours per week)

‘Mapping the Popular Fulani Digital Networks in the Sahel and their Entanglement in Conflict Networks’

As of May 1, 2023, the Leiden University Institute for History will be appointing a PhD candidate within the NWO-funded project ‘Digital warfare in the Sahel: Fulani popular networks of war and Cultural Violence’ led by Professor Mirjam de Bruijn ( ).

Project description:

Violent conflict is on the increase in the Sahel since 2012, coinciding with the increased use of Social Media in the region. The organization of networks and their information flows are changing, and this project studies the conflict as a digitally and physically networked one. Cultural violence—the legitimation of violence—spreads through (trans)regional networks, and discursive and ‘real’ warfare become entangled. This interdisciplinary study focuses on (trans)national Fulani networks, combining historical-ethnographic and computational methods to understand the ‘workings’ of networked conflict. The project warns of possible increases in ethnic violence, resulting from digital media uses.

The project consists of 2 PhDs, 1 Assistant Researcher, expert in Digital Humanities and the PI; further intensive collaboration with Research/Practice institutes in Africa is part of the programme.

The PhD candidate will be the main researcher in the sub-project of the programme entitled: ‘Mapping the Popular Fulani Digital Networks in the Sahel and their Entanglement in Conflict Networks’, in which the project elaborates on the organization of Fulani (conflict) networks in the digital space. The PhD candidate will compile a data set on these networks that are verified on the ground and also related to physical networks, and analyse these data sets with DSNA (Dynamic Social Network Analysis). The methodology of this project will be a combination of (n)ethnography and (computational) social network analysis.

The candidate has to be acquainted with the Sahel region, preferably also conducted fieldwork in the region; has to be acquainted with research on the net and in social media; Has to be proficient in Social Network Analysis both quantitative and qualitative; has to be acquainted with ethnographic methods; and should be able to speak French, preferably also basic knowledge of Arabic and Fulfulde.

Key responsibilities:

  • The candidate will write a PhD thesis in English or French within four years;
  • Write at lease two co-authored articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Will also present research in a more societal oriented way through blogs, photo/visual stories and other possible creative writing projects; 
  • Co-organizing workshops, conferences and events with societal partners;
  • Being a team player (sharing and discussing collective data and actively participating in the societal and educational goals of the project as a whole);
  • Contributing to undergraduate teaching (within the limits of what has been established as best practices within the Institute for History).

We search for a candidate who has good social skills; is a team player; and will contribute to the overall project also with administrative tasks.

Selection criteria:

  • MA degree in Anthropology, Media Studies, African Studies, or another related Social Science/Humanities discipline with a specialization in Digital Humanities, or the related field Artificial Intelligence;
  • Proven skills in fieldwork and social network analysis or willingness to learn;
  • Fluency in English and French, or willing to improve one of those languages. Mastering Fulfulde and Arabic is of utmost value for the project;
  • Knowledge of the Sahelian region, and preferably also having done some fieldwork in the region.
  • Excellent writing skills;
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of an (international) team;
  • Ability to work in an international and highly competitive environment.

About our faculty, institute and project

Since its founding in 1575, Leiden University has acquired an international reputation for excellent teaching and research. With its staff of over 800, the Faculty of Humanities provides 26 Bachelors and 27 Masters programmes for over 7200 students based at locations in Leiden’s historic city centre and in The Hague.

The Institute for History is the home of a vibrant community of researchers and instructors with outstanding track records and success in attracting national and international research grants. Under the label ‘Global Questions, Local Sources’ scholars affiliated to the Institute combine a deep knowledge of global interactions and of specific localities, regions and states in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. They use comparative, connective and entangled approaches, and resort to qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.

All researchers of the Institute for History are connected to one of the six research specializations: The Unification of the Mediterranean World (400 BC – 400 AD), Collective Identities and Transnational Networks in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 1000-1800, Political Culture and National Identities, Colonial and Global History, Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence, and History and International Relations. For more information on the Institute for History see

Terms and conditions:

We offer a full-time position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary range from €2,541.00 to €3,247.00 Gross per month (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.  Additional budget allows for research visits abroad and attendance of international conferences. More at

Diversity and Inclusion

Leiden University’s Institute for History embraces diversity and seeks candidates who will contribute to a climate that supports students, faculty, and staff of all identities and backgrounds. We strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented and/or marginalized backgrounds to apply.


For more information, contact Professor Mirjam de Bruijn ([email protected]).


Applications should be submitted in English and include a:

  • Cover letter;
  • Statement of purpose, which
    • states the ways in which your experience and knowledge would aid the project team in achieving their overall goals;
    • explains how you think you will function within an international team (e.g., what roles you are likely to assume)
    • show how you can work in the interrelation between Anthropology-History and Digital Humanities
  • A research proposal for the project of 2 pages;
  • Curriculum vitae with a list of publications (if applicable);
  • Copy of MA thesis;
  • Proof of English language proficiency for non-native English speakers or those without an undergraduate degree obtained in The Netherlands or an English-speaking country (IELTS 7.0 or lower will only be considered in exceptional circumstances, e.g. in the case of other compensatory factors such as unique experience and expertise);
  • List of two referees to your application (with full postal addresses, telephone numbers, and emails). Referees will be contacted directly by the search committee.

Applications should be submitted no later than 31 January 2023, by clicking the ‘Apply’ button. Please quote the vacancy number in your application. All requested documents should be sent in PDF format.

An interview with the search committee is part of the procedure. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed at the end of February 2023.

Click Here to Apply For The Job



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