Deadline: 21 August, 2018

The Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA) is a research unit at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Leuven, Belgium, which promotes empirical and theoretical research on urban processes in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the framework of the new research project ‘CityLabs’ they are looking for 3 PhD candidates to do ethnographic research in respectively three different cities in Africa.


Makerspaces such as Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs)  are mushrooming. They are part of the ‘Maker Movement’, an amalgam of initiatives characterized by a DIY-attitude, emphasis on open access to data, knowledge and produce, and driven by environmental concerns. The main objective of this pioneering project is to do ethnographic research within the framework of the CityLabs project. The CityLabs project asks how the current boom o fmaker- or hackerspaces in Africa contributes to the experience of city life on the continent, now and  in the future. The project is set up as a large comparative, ethnographic research, both on- and offline, of the engineers, students, artists, crafts(wo)men and inventors who align and identify themselves with the Maker Movement in four African cities (Accra, Cape Town, Lomé and Nairobi).

The CityLab project looks into the impact these actors and their innovations have on the urban landscape along three axes: a) knowledge: how are hi-tech innovations reconciled with local craftiness and worldviews; b) environment: how do these actors envision a sustainable urban development; c) the products: what technological, cultural or aesthetic void do they intend to fill?


  • Conducting ethnographic research, including participant observation and interviews, in Lomé (Togo), for a period of min. 18 months with a broad variety of ‘makers’ inside and outside of more formalized institutions such as Fablabs and art spaces.
  • Writing and completing a PhD dissertation within four years.
  • Actively participating in the PhD Programme in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the KU Leuven.
  • Collaborating with the IARA team in seminars, research activities and publications and with the CityLabs team more particularly.
  • Participating in conferences, workshops, seminars and other scholarly and educational activities.
Applications are invited from candidates with the following qualifications:
  • A Master degree with academic distinction in Social and Cultural Anthropology or equivalent.
  • Experience with ethnographic research and ability to work both independently and in team. Research experience in Africa is an asset.
  • A high standard of spoken and written English and French (required).
  • Strong analytical and qualitative research skills and the motivation to pursue creative work in anthropology.
  • The ability to present research results and publish them in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Experience in working with visual media (photo, video) is an asset.

They are recruiting 3 PhD candidates for the research in respectively Cape Town (South-Africa), Lomé (Togo) and Nairobi (Kenya). Candidates are allowed to apply for all 3 positions. This particular PhD fellow will carry out research in and on Lomé, Togo.

They offer you a full-time PhD scholarship starting on 1 October 2018. The appointment is initially for one year, but renewable for three years after a positive evaluation, leading to a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology.
The fellow will receive all regular  provisions for PhD fellows at the University of Leuven. In addition, s/he will be allocated office space and a laptop, and receive funding for research activities and fieldwork.
The successful candidate will be a member of the Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA) at the Faculty of Social Sciences, KU Leuven. The Institute has internationally renowned research expertise on issues of urbanity, ecology/resources and material/popular culture and is committed to long-term ethnographic field research on past and contemporary issues in and related to Africa, the everyday lives of the different actors on the continent and its diasporas. The institute offers an international network, a dynamic research group with a committed group of PhD students and a supporting working environment.

Deadline for application is 21 August, 2018

For more information and to apply, click here.

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