PhD-Fellowship in Social and Cultural Anthropology KU Leuven, Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa Belgium



The Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA) is a research unit at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Leuven, Belgium, which promotes empirical and theoretical research on urban processes in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the framework of the new research project 'CityLabs' we are looking for 3 PhD candidates to do ethnographic research in respectively three different cities in Africa.


Makerspaces such as Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs)  are mushrooming.They are part of the ‘Maker Movement’, an amalgam of initiatives characterized by a DIY-attitude, emphasis on open access to data, knowledge and produce, and driven by environmental concerns. The main objective of this pioneering project is to do ethnographic research within the framework of the City Labs project. The CityLabs project asks how the current boom of maker- or hackerspaces in Africa contributes to the experience of city life on the continent, now and  in the future. The project is set up as a large comparative, ethnographic research, both on- and offline, of the engineers, students, artists, crafts(wo)men and inventors who align and identify themselves with the Maker Movement in four African cities(Accra, Cape Town, Lomé and Nairobi).

The CityLab project looks into the impact these actors and their innovations have on the urban landscape along three axes: a) knowledge: how are hi-tech innovations reconciled with local craftiness and worldviews; b) environment: how do these actors envision a sustainable urban development; c) the products: what technological, cultural or aesthetic void do they intend to fill?


More information about the project can be requested by e-mail to one of the supervisors (see below).



•    Conducting ethnographic research, including participant observation and interviews, in Nairobi (Kenya) for a period of min. 18 months with a broad variety of 'makers' inside and outside of more formalized institutions such as Fablabs and art spaces.
•    Writing and completing a PhD dissertation within four years.
•    Actively participating in the PhD Programme in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the KU Leuven.
•    Collaborating with the IARA team in seminars, research activities and publications and with the CityLabs team more particularly.
•    Participating in conferences, workshops, seminars and other scholarly and educational activities.



Applications are invited from candidates with the following qualifications:
  • A Master degree with academic distinction in Social and Cultural Anthropology or equivalent
  • Experience with ethnographic research and ability to work both independently and in team. Research experience in Africa is an asset
  • A high standard of spoken and written English (required)
  • Strong analytical and qualitative research skills and the motivation to pursue creative work in anthropology.
  • The ability to present research results and publish them in peer-reviewed journals
  • Experience in working with visual media (photo, video) is an asset


We are recruiting 3 PhD candidates for the research in respectively Cape Town (South-Africa), Lomé (Togo) and Nairobi (Kenya). Candidates are allowed to apply for all 3 positions. This particular PhD fellow will carry out research in and on Nairobi, Kenya.


We offer you a full-time PhD scholarship starting on 1 October 2018. The appointment is initially for one year, but renewable for three years after a positive evaluation, leading to a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology.
The fellow will receive all regular  provisions for PhD fellows at the University of Leuven. In addition, s/he will be allocated office space and a laptop, and receive funding for research activities and fieldwork. 
The successful candidate will be a member of the Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA) at the Faculty of Social Sciences, KU Leuven. The Institute has internationally renowned research expertise on issues of urbanity, ecology/resources and material/popular culture and is committed to long-term ethnographic field research on past and contemporary issues in and related to Africa, the everyday lives of the different actors on the continent and its diasporas. The institute offers an international network, a dynamic research group with a committed group of PhD students and a supporting working environment.
For more information on the application process, working conditions and career opportunities as a PhD fellow at the University of Leuven see
The successful candidate may be asked to provide (limited) assistance with teaching, student supervision and data management. S/he will join a dynamic research team (faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and PhD students).


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Filip De Boeck, tel.: +32 16 32 60 46, mail: or Prof. dr. Ann Cassiman, tel.: +32 16 32 62 19, mail: In addition to the standard online application, please send us: − a letter of motivation − a CV − a PhD project proposal, no longer than 2000 words − at least one recommendation letter Interviews with shortlisted candidates (in person or online) will be scheduled on Tuesday 28 August 2018. A decision will be communicated by the beginning of September. You can apply for this job no later than August 21, 2018 via the online application tool.
You can apply for this job no later than August 21, 2018 via the online application tool
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

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