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PhD position at the Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies (ISNO)

The Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies in Bern combines the traditions of text-oriented Islamic studies with area studies and post-colonial approaches. Research at the Institute explores historical, sociological and political questions, and focuses in particular on gender and sexuality, legal history, labour history, media and political movements, transnationalism and migration studies. We research not only on the 'normative' aspects of Islam but also on the history, the culture and everyday life of Islamicate societies. For more information:

The Institute will hire a

PhD student starting in July 2023

who will be part of the project “The Flow: From Deep-Learning to Digital Analysis and their Role in the Humanities. Creating, Evaluating and Critiquing Workflows for Historical Corpora,” financed jointly by the SNSF and the DFG. The project is a cooperation between the Digital Humanities in Bern (Prof. Dr. Tobias Hodel), the Institute for Studies on the Middle East and Muslim Societies (Prof. Dr. Serena Tolino), the digital history of the University of Bielefeld (Prof. Dr. Silke Schwandt) and the Research Center for Hanseatic History (Dr. Angela Huang). The project aims at developing workflows and digital tools for the automatic and semi-automatic processing of sources from Ethiopia, England, the Hanseatic region and Bern.

The doctoral student will write a dissertation within the framework of the interdisciplinary project “The Flow.” In particular, the doctoral student based at the Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies will work with a corpus of Arabic legal sources from Harar (Eastern Ethiopia) from the late 19th century. These sources allow us to get a better understanding of how Islamic law was implemented and enacted during the period of Egyptian occupation of that Ethiopian city and its surrounding region. Beside working on the PhD thesis, the PhD student will also participate in the weekly PhD colloquium and in the monthly project meetings and will contribute to the organization of project activities and conferences.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate able to demonstrate a strong commitment to the aims of the Institute, capable of producing research of international standards and possessing reliability and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team. Ability to set priorities, collegiality and an active willingness to contribute fostering a working climate of mutual support, trust and care are expected.
Candidates must hold an excellent MA degree or equivalent in Islamic and/or Middle Eastern Studies, or in History or similar Humanities with an emphasis on Islamic or Middle Eastern Studies. Willingness to work with and think critically about digital tools and methods as well as to be part of an interdisciplinary team is required. Candidates who are still enrolled as Master students are encouraged to apply, provided that they will obtain their MA degree by July 2023. Readiness to field-work in the region (and/or previous stays in the region) are considered an asset, as previous knowledge of the early modern and modern Egyptian and/or Ethiopian historical and cultural context. Proficiency in spoken and written English and very good knowledge of Arabic, suitable to the analysis of manuscript sources, is required.

We offer
The PhD student will be hosted at the University of Bern, Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies. The PhD student will be co-supervised by Prof. Serena Tolino and Prof. Alessandro Gori (University of Copenhagen). The position is funded by the SNSF for three years. We offer an experience in an international and dynamic team and the possibility to be part of an interdisciplinary peer-groups of PhD students from different universities and different disciplines; well-equipped facilities and an employment that follows cantonal standards; a supportive, collegial environment and flexibility in time management. We also offer support with translation and with working with manuscript sources.
The University of Bern is committed to the principles of equality and the promotion of diversity in employment. The ISNO follows this commitment with conviction. Applications from people with migration biographies, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disabilities, People of Color, and people who, in the Swiss context, are from minority backgrounds, are strongly encouraged.

Application should include: i) cover letter; ii) copy of relevant diplomas; iii) a detailed curriculum vitae; iv) contact details of at least one referee. The documents should be combined into one pdf file.
The deadline for applications is March 24, 2023 (midnight CET). Interviews will take place in April.

Submit your application to Debora Ulrich,, with the subject line: PhD The Flow.


Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies (ISNO)
Employment percentage: 
Place of work: 
Application deadline: 
24 March, 2023