[Opportunity] PhD Position: Buddhist pilgrimage in the Anthropocene

The Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, invites applications for a 3-year PhD-scholarship on the topic of Buddhist pilgrimage in the Anthropocene. The scholarship is fully funded for three years and will be filled on February 1, 2022, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Application deadline: September 1, 2021.

Buddhist pilgrimage in the Anthropocene

Buddhist practices can be detrimental to the health of ecosystems at pilgrimage sites through the dispersal and discard of mass-produced religious items or consumer goods. However, not all discarded items produced on Buddhist pilgrimage are considered littering. Prayer flags degrading in the wilderness, for instance, are not necessarily seen as polluting. We seek a PhD-fellow working within ecological anthropology, with an expertise in Buddhism, who is able to design and undertake a research project on Buddhism in the Anthropocene with a particular emphasis on Buddhist relationships with discarded materials. This project might, for instance, investigate waste practices along a commoditized tourist pilgrimage. What, how and when is something considered waste?

The PhD-position is opened in the framework of the international, collective research project Waste: Consumption and Buddhism in the age of garbage, which is funded by Veluxfonden (September 2021 – August 2025). The PhD-fellow will join a research team of six scholars working within the project Waste and will be supervised by the project manager, Associate Professor Trine Brox. This project will generate new understandings of how Buddhist communities and individuals generate and interpret waste, and how waste practices are intimately related to cultural imaginaries. In particular, the project is interested in Buddhist consumption practices, waste regimes, value, affect and aesthetics as they are connected to the waste imaginaries and waste trajectories that we study. The project asks: how do Buddhists define and sort waste from non-waste? What are the effects of increased consumption practices and waste production on ecological systems, cultural practices, social relations, rituals, and customs? Team members will collectively and through their individual ethnographic studies respond to these research questions.

The PhD-fellow will work in the interdisciplinary research environment at the Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen. As part of a team of researchers coming from language-based area studies, religious studies, and anthropology, the candidate must be willing and able to participate in regular research and outreach activities where we engage in cross-disciplinary discussions. The candidate is expected to actively participate in weekly meetings and reading groups, and a monthly waste excursion. The candidate should be aware that there is a mandatory three-year plan for the PhD-program that also includes 30 ECTS of PhD-courses and one semester of teaching obligations.

Project description

The candidate should submit a detailed project proposal in which they include:
(1) project description
(2) the intended theoretical framework and analytical concepts,
(3) the questions asked and the methods applied in order to answer these questions,

(4) the site/sites for the study,
(5) the selection and access to data,
(6) ethical considerations,
(7) work plan for the project, including milestones for the three-year period,
(8) expected results and plan for the dissemination of results,
(9) the candidate’s qualifications for undertaking the study.

The project proposal must not exceed five standard pages, corresponding to approx. 12,000 characters (including title, punctuation, figures, footnotes and references, but excluding bibliography). A substantial breach of this will result in the application being excluded from consideration. Guidelines on how to write a PhD-project proposal intended for the University of Copenhagen can be found here: https://phd.humanities.ku.dk/become-phd-student/how-to/application-requirements/project-guidelines/

Other relevant material
Statements of consent can be submitted with the application. For example, agreement of access to special archives or agreement of exchange at an international university, etc. Do not upload your Master thesis.

Admission requirements
Applicants need to hold a two-year Master’s degree (120 ECTS) or the equivalent. Applicants must send pre-approval of their thesis if it is not completed at the time of the application deadline.

Applicants with a non-Danish Master’s degree will have their degree assessed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science in order to establish that their Master’s degree is equivalent to a Danish Master’s degree. Please read more at the Ministry of Higher Education and Sciences website: https://ufm.dk/en

Qualification Requirements
The applicant’s qualifications for the scholarship are evaluated by the applicant’s general educational and academic background. Grade average, thesis grade, language competencies, publications, and other academic activities will be taken into account.

In addition, the proposed PhD-project and work plan will be evaluated with regard to originality, choice of theory and method, relevance and synergy with the collective research project, and prospects for completion within the required timeframe of 36 months.

Communication skills
Excellent communication skills in English are essential, and applicants must speak and write academic English. The administration may ask applicants to document their proficiency in English at any time in the recruitment process, if considered necessary.

Application requirements
The application must be sent electronically via the link at the bottom of the page in Adobe PDF. ZIP files may not be used.

Please note that each field in the applicant form can only contain one file of max 20 Mb.

The application must include:

Project abstract: Maximum 1,200 characters

Project proposal: Maximum 12,000 characters

Cover letter: Please write a motivated application.

CV: Complete CV, including a list of publications if relevant.  

Diploma and transcript of records: Applicants must upload the following documentation:

  • A copy of master’s degree diploma (if not available before the application deadline, a pre-approval must be submitted) 
  • A copy of master’s degree transcript of records (an official description of the grading scale must be included) 
  • A copy of bachelor’s degree diploma 
  • A copy of bachelor’s degree transcript of records (an official description of the grading scale must be included) 

If the master diploma and/or examination records are in another language than English, German, French, Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian, please include a translation into either of these languages in your application. The translation of diplomas/certificates and transcripts must be made or approved by a state-authorized translator and interpreter or at the embassy/a Danish consulate/ or consulate of the country where the original document was issued or where the translation was made. 

The administration encourages applicants from within the EU to enclose a Diploma Supplement. The Diploma Supplement is part of a common European framework for transparency of competencies and qualifications – the EuroPass framework.Find more information at this page:


Chinese applicants are required to enclose a CADGEEC (The China Academic degrees and Graduate Education Evaluation Committee) certificate. Read more at this page: http://www.cdgdc.edu.cn/xwyyjsjyxx/aboutus/structure/evaluation/265843.shtml

Applicants can amend their application after submission up until the application deadline.

The recruitment process
After the deadline for applications, applicants are selected for assessment on the advice of the Appointment Committee. All applicants will be notified whether they are shortlisted for assessment or not. An Assessment Committee are appointed and the selected applicants are notified of the composition of this committee. Each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment which relates to their own application. The assessments are expected to be complete at the beginning of November 2021.

Afterwards, a selection of qualified candidates will be invited for an interview. The interviews will be held in December 2021. Please be advised that a positive assessment does not necessarily mean that you will be invited for an interview.

For further information on the recruitment process, please see University of Copenhagen’s website: https://employment.ku.dk/faculty/recruitment-process/. 

As a PhD-fellow, you will be supervised for approximately 180 hours distributed over 6 semesters. In addition to this, you must complete PhD-courses of a total approximating 30 ECTS. On completion of the PhD-program, you must submit a PhD thesis.  

Read more about the structure of the PhD-program and what it means to be enrolled as a PhD-fellow at the Faculty of Humanities via this link: https://phd.humanities.ku.dk/become-phd-student/what-is-it/. For more information about the PhD School read more at this page: https://phd.humanities.ku.dk/.

Terms of employment
PhD-fellows are appointed under the terms and conditions of the collective agreement between the Danish Ministry of Finance and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations.

According to the agreement, PhD scholars are obliged – without any additional remuneration – to perform tasks assigned to them corresponding to 840 working hours over the three years. These tasks will primarily be in the form of teaching, dissemination, research or other related academic areas.

Please note that it is normally a precondition for employment that the applicant in question does not already have a PhD-degree. Applicants who have already obtained a PhD-degree will, as a main rule, be dismissed.   

As an equal opportunity employer the university invites applications from all interested candidates regardless of gender, age, ethnic origin or religion.

Contact information
For any further questions regarding the recruitment process please contact HR employee Mette Christensen, e-mail: hrsc@hrsc.ku.dk, please refer to ID number 211-0759/21-2H.  

Questions regarding the PhD project within the research project Waste: Consumption and Buddhism in the age of garbage can be directed to the project manager Associate Professor Trine Brox, e-mail trinebrox @ hum.ku.dk.

Application deadline
Applicants must submit the application electronically no later than 1 September 2021 at 23:59 (11:59 pm) (CEST).

Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.

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