PhD Position

Innovation, Progress, and the Role of Nature (PhD)

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Radboud University
Erasmusplein 1
6500 HD Nijmegen

Dr. Suzanne van de Liefvoort
+31(0)24 3611276

Innovation, Progress, and the Role of Nature

PhD Position (4 years, 1,0 fte), Leiden University

Main Supervisors:
Prof. dr. Ineke Sluiter (Leiden) and Prof. dr. Casper de Jonge (Leiden)

Additional supervisory expertise dependent on the needs of the project and/or researcher

Job description

New ideas and inventions that affect social life cannot thrive unless they are somehow embedded in the society for which they are intended. Innovation will always be connected somehow—both in the ways it is communicated and perceived, and in terms of content—to what people know, believe, want, value, and can understand. This is true even of radical, path-breaking, ‘revolutionary’ ideas and insights. This phenomenon of ‘anchoring’ is central to the current research agenda of the Dutch classicists.

In Classical Antiquity, one way in which humans conceive of societal development, inventions, and progress is through their relationship with nature. Nature can function as a positive or negative anchoring topos. Sometimes, it is the dangers posed by nature that need to be overcome (weather conditions, wild animals), or humankind enters on potentially hubristic ventures when territory is arrogated that is reserved for the gods (digging into the earth, venturing onto the seas). Sometimes, nature may present the inspiration for new inventions (as when the bones of a fish inspire the invention of the comb or when Daedalus’ wings are inspired by those of birds). What is ‘natural’ may be used as a moral argument to impose limits on change.

We invite PhD proposals for original research on the role of nature in the cultural imagination of invention, inventors, human culture, and / or progress. We are particularly interested in the discourse, themes, and scenarios of human-nature interaction, and the cognitive and social embedding of arguments from nature.

Candidates are invited to design a structured PhD proposal (title, research question, scholarly background, aims, method, corpus) around these issues. They are free in adopting a literary or linguistic approach, and in their choice of corpus. However, given the theme and recent developments in our field, we would particularly welcome approaches inspired on ‘ecocriticism’. In their proposals, candidates should outline their suggested approach, main research question, and expected original contribution to the field.

More information about the Anchoring Innovation research agenda of OIKOS can be found on the website ( and in an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda” (Anchoring Innovation: A Classical Research Agenda | European Review | Cambridge Core). The work package to which the project will be assigned will be determined once the period to which the project mostly relates is determined.

Host institution

The Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University is an international centre for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. Our faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members. For more information see

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is one of the seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. LUCAS is dedicated to ground-breaking research that explores the multifaceted relationships between the arts and society. For more information see

Terms and Conditions

PhD project, 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1st, 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation. It is possible to extend the position over 5 years at 0,8 fte. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. Salary range from € 2.434 to € 3.111 gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for PhDs, 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. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information:

Tasks of the PhD candidate will include:
  • Completion of a PhD thesis within four years (1,0 fte) or five years (0,8 fte);
  • Participation in meetings of the project research group(s);
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Participation in the training programme of the local Leiden Graduate School and the National Research School in Classics (OIKOS);
  • Participation in staff meetings of the Leiden Classics team and the intellectual life of the department and the institute;
  • Some teaching in the second and third years of the appointment.
  • A RMA, MA or MPhil degree in Classics, held by time of appointment, with an MA thesis of high quality with a grade of at least 8.0 on a ten-point scale, or comparable assessment;
  • Well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate relevant and creative research questions and hypotheses, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • Excellent competence in ancient Greek and Latin, and English, as well as reading competence in French, German and Italian;
  • Independent thinker, team player;
  • Grit.

The Anchoring Innovation program is strongly committed to diversity within its team and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Enquiries about the position can be addressed to Prof. dr. Ineke Sluiter, We strongly recommend candidates to contact the supervisor prior to submitting their proposal. This is the reason why we established such a long period between the announcement of the position and the deadline for submission. Questions about the procedure can be directed to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort,


In order to be admissible, applications must include the following information (in the same order), in one PDF file (not zipped):

  • Cover letter;
  • CV, including contact information of two referees;
  • Transcript of records;
  • Research proposal of 1500 words. This does not include the bibliography and (if appropriate) an appendix containing a list of sources (together max. two pages A4);
  • Copy of relevant diploma or statement by master thesis supervisor confirming that the applicant will hold the required degree at the time of appointment.

Please submit your complete application to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort, the coordinator of the Anchoring-programme via before April 24, 2022. Interviews will take place in the week of 30 May – 3 June, 2022 and will possibly be held online.