PD Project

(PD) Anchoring Early Islam in Ancient Pasts

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Radboud University
Erasmusplein 1
6500 HD Nijmegen

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

Anchoring Early Islam in Ancient Pasts

Anchoring WP11: Anchoring Religious Change (Late Antiquity)

PD Position (3 years, 1.0 fte), Radboud University

Main Supervisors: Prof. dr Olivier Hekster and Prof. dr Maaike van Berkel

Salary Range: between € 3.974 and € 5.439 gross per month

Project Description

The Arab conquests of the seventh and eights centuries marked a momentous change in a large geographical area surrounding the Mediterranean. It must have had a pronounced impact on daily social and religious life of many of the inhabitants in those areas. At the same time, recent research has increasingly emphasised the extent to which the early Islamic world built on the ancient societies that preceded them, suggesting different forms of continuity.

This project aims to look at ways in which Islamic ideas and practices may have been anchored in Graeco-Roman precedents. Administrative procedures and practices of taxation show clear pre-Islamic influences, and Islamic coinage made use of both Byzantine and Sasanian precedents. Innovative motives on, for instance, the glass mosaics of the Damascus mosque were made by Byzantine craftsmen, to an extent following Byzantine examples. At the same time, there were innovations that seem to have aimed at ‘un-anchoring’ the classical past: Arabic was rapidly introduced (alongside Greek, Coptic and Persian), perhaps to break from classical precedents. Likewise, the introduction of the Hijri calendar formed a clear break with the ancient pasts.

In daily early-Islamic life around the Mediterranean, then, people will have been confronted by texts, practices, buildings, papyri, coins and other aspects of material culture that either aimed to make innovative notions acceptable and understandable to the inhabitants of the (newly) conquered territories, or explicitly broke with such ancient pasts. Were patterns of earlier innovations copied? Which ideas or practices were kept, or re-invented? Which were rejected or reformed? Could fluidity itself form an anchor? How, in other words, were contemporary Islamic experiences anchored in existent traditions in the territories that used to be part of the Roman Empire?

Candidates are invited to propose a research project that explores and investigates particular aspects of this theme. The results are to be laid down in at least three substantial articles that employ the concept of anchoring in the context of the early Islamic world. These articles should also make a contribution towards a better understanding of the concept of ‘anchoring’. More information about this program can be found on the website (www.anchoringinnovation.nl). Another good starting point to get acquainted with the research program is an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda”.

Terms and Conditions

Postdoc project, 3 years (1.0 fte, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1, 2023. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 2 years on condition of a positive evaluation. Salary range (depending on education and experience) of a minimum of € 3.974,- and a maximum of € 5.439,- (salary scale 11) gross per month for full-time employment, (pay scale for postdoctoral researchers, in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities). This includes medical and pension benefits. If desired, the position may be held part-time and thereby extended in length.

Radboud 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. Please note that if the successful candidate is not already registered as living in the Netherlands, it is required that the candidate will officially relocate to the Netherlands on the starting date of the contract at the latest.

Tasks of the Postdoc will include

  • Completion of a monograph or, alternatively, at least three substantial articles within the contract period;
  • Presenting papers at conferences, both in the Netherlands and internationally;
  • Participation in staff meetings of the Radboud ancient and medieval history team and the intellectual life of the department and the institute;
  • Participation in the academic community of the national research school OIKOS, and the wider Anchoring Innovation project;
  • Some teaching (max. 20%).


  • A PhD in a relevant field, e.g. Languages, Cultures, History, Archaeology of the Early Islamic World, preferably on a related topic;
  • An excellent research and publication record in relation to stage of career;
  • A strong cooperative attitude and willingness to engage in collaborative research;
  • Some organizational experience;
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English;
  • Competence in ancient Greek, Coptic, Persian, Syriac and/or Arabic, as required by the research topic;
  • Willingness to move to Nijmegen for the duration of the contract.


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 Olivier Hekster (olivier.hekster@ru.nl). Questions about the procedure can be directed to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort (anchoring@let.ru.nl).


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 a list of publications and distinctions, and the contact information of two academic referees;
  • Transcript of records (i.e. a certified copy of your MA and BA course lists and results);
  • 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 a statement by the supervisor that the applicant will hold the required degree at the time of the appointment.

Please submit your complete application to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort, the coordinator of the Anchoring-program via anchoring@let.ru.nl before April 24, 2023. Interviews will take place in the week of 22-26 May 2023 (online).