Funded PhDs / Social Movements (University of Aberdeen)

PhD Opportunity, deadline for applications 30 May 2016

Below please find information on funded PhDs at University of Aberdeen in IN CITIZENSHIP, CIVIL SOCIETY AND RULE OF LAW (CISRUL). Prospective students wanting to study social movements can apply. They can also cross list this funding with the Elphinstone projects listed here: Successful applicants under the CISRUL scheme will have a full stipend £14,296 per annum. Those applying under Elphinstone can apply for a fee waiver. Students can apply for the CISRUL and an Elphinstone project simultaneously (In other words, apply to do one of the Elphinstone PhD projects in the CISRUL centre with a full stipend, as long as the project fits with the CISRUL call).

There are a few Elphinstone projects particularly relevant to European social movements:

Resisting Austerity: Collective Action In Europe (and beyond) In The Wake Of The Global Financial Crisis
Supervisor Cristina Flesher Fominaya
The global economic crisis along with the austerity measures implemented by governments during the crisis has led to a dramatic increase in unemployment, inequality and poverty in a number of European countries hardest hit by the crisis. Within this context, Anti-austerity protests have targeted national political and economic elites for failing to adequately address prior internal structural problems, and for failing to protect citizens against the effects of the crisis. They have protested the external imposition of budgetary austerity measures, and have targeted international financial institutions. They have, further, developed counter-narratives of the ‘crisis’ and the ‘need’ for austerity measures, and have created alternative responses based on resistance and solidarity, bringing basic material issues such as housing and food, as well as public health and education, to the centre of their claims making and the European public debate. Crucial in contexts such as Spain, these demands have been framed within a broader call for democratic regeneration. Yet this demand has taken many different forms from direct democratic grassroots participation, to participatory budgets in municipal administrations and the emergence of new “hybrid parties” such as Podemos, as well as pan European initiatives such as Plan B.

The PhD can focus on any of these, or related key areas:

How is the concept of democracy being rearticulated and what political forms is this taking?

How has the context of ‘austerity’ altered the political and cultural landscape for social movements? What (new or renewed) forms of collective resilience and solidarity have emerged?

What role does culture play in practices of resistance to austerity?

To what extent are anti-austerity protests rooted in a deep critique of capitalism and
/or neoliberalism?

While some countries significantly impacted by austerity have had high levels of protest (Spain, Greece), others have not (Ireland, the UK): how can we explain such variation in the face of common or similar grievances? What effect has this had on the transformation of the electoral terrain in thee countries?

What are the dynamics and challenges faced by pan-European and transnational anti-austerity initiatives such as Plan B?

Applicants are welcome to propose a research topic in areas related to the overall theme of collective resistance to austerity and democratic transformations in this context. Comparative work with cases outside Europe are also welcome, as long as one of the cases is in Europe.

Funding Notes:
All applications to Sociology at the University of Aberdeen for 2016 entry will be considered for one of two University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarships. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, whether Home, EU or Overseas.

Selection will be made on the bases of academic merit. Applicants should have a background in sociology, politics or related discipline, should have a grounding in European politics and should be fluent in the language of the country/countries in which they wish to base their research

Transforming Democracy And Politics In The Digital Age
Supervisor Cristina Flesher Fominaya
The digital revolution has radically transformed social life and political cultures, as many forms of political activity have moved online and new forms of media have enabled new forms of political engagement. Many argue that these revolutionary transformations, such as peer production mechanisms like social media, offer new possibilities for digital democracy. Digital innovation from its origins has been closely tied to a democratic imaginary that seeks maximum user control, flexibility, participation, and modification in a collaborative (open source) sharing context. As participatory digital tools have developed they have inspired a number of projects that explicitly seek to increase democratic participation of citizens, whether that be within smaller communities that might also meet face to face (such as Loomio) or within much larger political communities such as the tool developed for voting within Plaza Podemos (in Spain) or the participatory tools used in Taiwan by the activists hacker community g0v. These tools are also being proposed as means for other ways of regenerating democracy such as controlling corruption, improving citizen information, defending human rights, empowering marginalized groups , and exposing government wrongdoing (such as Wikileaks, or Filtrala).

The PhD project will centre around the following questions and should be based on specific case studies to analyze them:

How are these digitally enabled participatory tools transforming democracy, if at all?
How are they involved in raising citizen demand for democracy and enabling it?
How are these tools rooted in particular democratic imaginaries and digital imaginaries and what is the connection between these?
What specific challenges and limitations do these innovations face?
What is the role of culture in fostering or challenging the digital transformation of politics?
How do power, social inequalities and the State shape the possibilities for new media and digital tchnologies to facilitate political participation and other transformations of democracy?
How have these new tools transformed collective action and mobilization processes?

Although the project is based on specific case studies involving digital technology and/or new media, the theoretical focus of the PhD should be on the social scientific aspects of these innovations and their relation to democracy.

Funding Notes:
All applications to Sociology at the University of Aberdeen for 2016 entry will be considered for the University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, whether Home, EU or Overseas.

Selection will be made on the bases of academic merit. Students will need to be familiar with the digital and/or new media platforms or software that they will be drawing on for their case studies and have a background in sociology, politics, media studies or related discipline.


Deadline: 30 May 2016

The Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law (CISRUL) at the University of Aberdeen is delighted to offer two 3-year PhD studentships to start in September 2016. The studentships will include home/overseas fees and a full stipend of £14,296 per annum. We welcome applicants from anthropology, cultural and literary studies, history, legal theory and socio-legal studies, philosophy, politics, religious studies, sociology and theology.

Founded in 2009, CISRUL studies the application of political ideas globally. The Centre draws on expertise across disciplines to examine how political principles function within and beyond the contemporary West. Concepts such as ‘citizenship’, ‘civil society’, and the ‘rule of law’ are used as often by policy makers as by scholars. Core to CISRUL’s mission is informing academic and public debate on how they are used, and to what effect.

Note that applicants must hold or be close to completing a postgraduate Masters degree in a relevant field. The holders will reside in Aberdeen during the studentship period, except for periods of research and conference travel.

The deadline for full consideration of applications is 30 May 2016 (although we may consider late applications).

Please view for further details. For enquiries, please contact Lisa Baxter ( in the first instance.