WP 10: Cultural Common Ground in the Roman Empire (31 BCE - 200 CE)

(Postdoc) Anchoring Objects in Antiquity

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Radboud University
Erasmusplein 1
6500 HD Nijmegen

Dr. Sven Betjes

Postdoc project (2 years, 1.0 fte), Leiden University
Work Package 10: Cultural common ground in the Roman Empire (31 BCE-200 CE).

Prof. dr. Miguel John Versluys (Leiden) and Prof. Dr. Ineke Sluiter (Leiden)

Salary range
A minimum of € 4.332,- and a maximum of € 5.929,-, including full benefits.

Job description

For new ideas, objects and practices to be adopted, relevant social groups must somehow be able to effectively integrate and accommodate them in their conceptual categories, values and beliefs. This happens if they manage to connect what is perceived as new to what they consider familiar, known or already accepted: a process or activity called anchoring. Thus, new objects (that is: newly invented, adapted or imported) are among the things that may be in need of anchoring. One can think here, for instance, of the Egyptian obelisks that were transported, by Augustus, from the Nile to the Tiber and anchored through their association with Sol and imperial power.

However, objects can also (and simultaneously) represent existing conceptual categories, values or beliefs and thus play a role in the anchoring process themselves, as anchors for the new. This is not just a passive role: objects can also be (perceived as) active, anchoring agents that somehow mediate between the familiar and the new. One can think here, for instance, of the many specimens of ‘Greek art’ that migrated to Rome in the late-Republic. In cultural terms the Roman Empire is often characterized as having a ‘Greco-Roman’ identity; what role did objects play within that process in agentive terms?

The roles played by objects (things) in relation to anchoring remain underexplored. Is there a (special) role for objects in dealing with ‘the new’, for instance in relation to people and ideas? And if so, what is it?

We are looking for an ambitious postdoctoral researcher who has experience with object-oriented theory within the Humanities in general and the study of the ancient world particularly and is excited to investigate these issues through both theoretical explorations as well as research on case studies from Antiquity. Organizing a conference on ‘Anchoring Objects’ and publishing the proceedings, in cooperation with senior researchers of the project, is part of the job.

Candidates are invited to design a structured PD proposal in which they 1. express their view on the issues raised above and 2. propose their research and research output for the period of the project, of which the editing of the conference volume is part.

More information about the Anchoring Innovation research agenda of OIKOS can be found on the website (www.anchoringinnovation.nl) and in an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda”.

Host institution

The Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden is the leading academic institute for Archaeology in the Netherlands, and one of the largest in the world. The Faculty is an international front-runner, in the top ten of the QS World University Ranking, at subject level. For more information see https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/archaeology/organisation.

The Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University is a unique international center for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. The faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members. For more information see https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/humanities.

Terms and conditions

Postdoc-project, 2 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1, 2024. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following year on condition of a positive evaluation. Salary range from of a minimum of € 4.332,- and a maximum of € 5.929,- (salary scale 11) gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for Postdocs, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). This includes medical and pension benefits. If desired, the position may be held part-time and thereby extended in length to 31 December 2027 at the latest.

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. 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 PD candidate will include:

  • To develop and carry out an innovative research project within the framework described above;
  • To present research results at national and international conferences and workshops (individual and/or co-authored);
  • To submit research results for several publications in peer-reviewed journals or books (individual and/or co-authored);
  • To co-organise an international conference on the subject (in 2025) and co-edit its proceedings (in 2026) both together with senior researchers of the program;
  • Some teaching (to be discussed; max. 10%);
  • To participate in the host institutions, the national research school OIKOS, and the wider Anchoring Innovation program.


The project seeks to employ a highly motivated, ambitious and proactive candidate who will need to work both independently and as part of a larger team.

A successful PD candidate should have:

  • A PhD in Classical Archaeology or Classics or another culture/language from the ancient world held by time of appointment;
  • Knowledge of Greek, Latin and/or other ancient languages;
  • Preferably some years of (independent) research experience;
  • Research and publication record showing affinity with object-oriented approaches within the Humanities and the study of the ancient world;
  • Very good oral and written skills in English.


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. M.J. Versluys, m.j.versluys@arch.leidenuniv.nl. Questions about the procedure can be directed to Dr. Sven Betjes, anchoring@let.ru.nl.


In order to be considered, 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;
  • Research proposal of 1500 words. This does not include the bibliography and (if appropriate) an appendix containing a list of sources;
  • Transcript of records (i.e. a list of BA and MA courses);
  • Copy of relevant diploma or statement by PhD- supervisor confirming that the applicant will hold the required degree at the time of appointment.

Please submit your complete application to Dr Sven Betjes, the coordinator of the Anchoring-programme via anchoring@let.ru.nl before April 15, 2024. If you are invited for an interview, this takes place on May 23rd, 2024 (presumably online).