PhD candidates in International Political Sociology (Audio-Visual Methods)

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The institute of Political Sciences of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences is looking for two

PhD candidates in International Political Sociology (Audio-Visual Methods)

Project description
The PhD candidates will be part of the interdisciplinary project “The Security Politics of Algorithmic Vision (Security Vision)” hosted at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. The project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and led by Dr. Francesco Ragazzi. The Security Vision project investigates how technologies of computer vision work in practice in the field of security (smart CCTV, social media content moderation, border control, etc.), and what their ethical and political implications are. The project addresses these challenges through an innovative theoretical and methodological framework based on audio-visual and multimodal methods to advance debates in international politics. The project has three interrelated phases:

  1. It will map the current field of computer vision institutions and technologies in the field of security, by constituting a dataset of actors, programs and applications, through multiple correspondence analysis and social network analysis. This first phase will produce, in addition to a textual analysis, several data visualization outputs.
  2. On the basis of this mapping, the project will investigate both the algorithmic and the social logics of these technologies and the professionals who program, train and operate them. Visual ethnographies (filmmaking) will provide in-depth analysis of how computer vision works in practice.
  3. Finally, by looking at the institutional and political context in which computer vision is being developed and utilised, the project analyses the ethical implications of these technologies on fundamental rights based on focus groups and expert interviews.

Key responsibilities
The PhD candidates will work primarily on the second phaseof the project (specified above). The key responsibilities of the candidate will be to:

  • Complete, within 4 years, a PhD thesis (either monograph or article-based).;
    • The thesis will comprise a written part and one or more substantive audio-visual work(s). This requires a strong experience in both academic writing and filmmaking – including camera work, sound and editing. (To clarify: this is not a practice-based Ph.D. in the arts, but a Ph.D. in international politics / international political sociology grounded in the practice of audio-visual methods);
    • The written and audio-visual components of the thesis have to explore one case study in second phase of the project, to be determined in collaboration with the Principal Investigator.
  • Support the research team (PI, Post-Doctoral Researcher and fellow PhD students) during phase 2 and 3 of the project related to the analysis of computer vision algorithms;
  • Contributing to research papers as a research assistant or co-author;
  • Contributing to collective data-based and audio-visual work, as a researcher or co-director;
  • Collaborating with the team, and fulfilling all the reporting requirements of the ERC project (completing timesheets, regular reporting, etc.);
  • Contributing to project communications (website, social media accounts and newsletter);
  • Contributing to the dissemination of research results, both in academic (conferences) and audio-visual settings (festivals, art exhibitions/venues, broadcasters, other distribution channels).

Selection criteria

  • A (research) master’s degree in political science / international relations or in a relevant discipline (anthropology, sociology, media studies, etc.) or be near completion;
  • Strong experience in visual practice such as documentary or ethnographic filmmaking (directing, camera, editing), evidenced by completed films and festival selections;
  • Experience in ethnographic research methods;
  • Substantive interest in and knowledge of critical security studies, science and technology studies, data politics, surveillance, discrimination, ethnic and racial politics, human rights;
  • Excellent command of English. Knowledge of other languages relevant to the fieldwork is beneficial.

Other qualifications of relevance, but not required for the position include experience in participant observation, interview techniques, focus groups.

Our organisation
The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences conducts high-quality research and offers a broad and disciplinary educational programme, focused on increasing our understanding of current developments in society. The faculty consists of five institutes: Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Cultural Anthropology and Developmental Sociology, Education and Child Studies, Political Science and Psychology. The faculty has approximately 7,000 students and 850 staff members. For more information, see the website.

The Institute of Political Science has a strong research tradition in various areas of comparative, Dutch and international politics, as well as political theory. The Institute has around 85 academic staff, including many non-Dutch scholars, and houses a number of editorships of international refereed journals and book series. Members of the institute are also involved in a number of the university’s multi-disciplinary research centres, including Central and East European Studies, International Relations, Political Parties and Representation, and Political Philosophy. The Institute is based in Leiden but a large and growing part of the teaching is done nearby in The Hague. The PhD candidates will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, which offers PhD support and training.

Terms and conditions
The position preferably starts on 1 January 2022. We offer a full-time position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further three years. Salary range from € 2,395.- to € 3,061.- gross per month (pay scale P, step 0 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 %) and training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information, see the website.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

If you wish to further inquire about the position, please make direct contact with Dr Francesco Ragazzi, principal investigator and chair of the selection committee, email

Please submit online your application no later than1 June 2021 via the blue button in our application system. Applicants should submit online: 

  • An application letter in English that addresses each of the required qualifications described above, as well as additional qualifications and experience of relevance to the position (1-2 pages);
  • A PhD project proposal detailing both the theoretical contribution and the use of audio-visual or multimodal methods (3-5 pages)
  • A  full CV (with list of publications if applicable);
  • A portfolio of documentary film or other audio-visual work (links via e.g. Vimeo or other platforms should be provided), and details of each film including festival or other venue selections;
  • A list of Bachelor and Master courses completed (including grades);
  • A written sample (essay, paper or article);
  • The names of two people who may be contacted, if short-listed, to provide a reference on behalf of the candidate. 

The selection procedure will take place in July/August. Selected candidates will initially be invited for an online pre-interview; the candidates who are selected after the pre-interview will be invited to Leiden for an in-person interview. You are kindly requested to be available during this period. 



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