Doctoral Researcher POPAGANDA

Application Deadline: Monday, August 9, 2021

Doctoral Researcher on the project POPAGANDA: Pop Culture, Art, and Ideas of Legitimacy in Struggles over Democratization and Peace.

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) invites applications for a three-year, full-time position as Doctoral Researcher. The position provides the opportunity to work in a leading international research institution with high academic standards and an interdisciplinary environment.

This position is financed as part of a grant from the Research Council of Norway to PRIO for the project “POPAGANDA: Pop Culture, Art, and Ideas of Legitimacy in Struggles over Democratization and Peace”, led by Senior Researcher Marte Nilsen.

Working within the field of Humanities or Social Sciences, the Doctoral Researcher to be employed in this project will conduct fieldwork-based research on how indigenous belief systems and cosmologies are utilized in popular culture and art in Myanmar or Thailand, to generate political legitimacy in struggles over democratization and peace. The work conducted here will result in a PhD dissertation in English.

About the POPAGANDA project  

Several countries face difficult challenges in their political transitions from autocracy to a more democratic system. How do political opposition groups in these countries use popular culture and art to generate legitimacy for their political causes and propagate their messages?

Myanmar and Thailand are both examples of countries that are caught up in long-standing conflicts and disagreements where minorities and opposition groups have built strong political visions and systems of ideology that are incompatible with the current political order of the ruling elites.

We find that opposition movements in these two countries utilize popular culture and art to generate political legitimacy in their struggles over democratization and peace. We also find that indigenous belief systems and cosmologies in these countries are not irrelevant relics of the past. They are phenomena with direct influence on today’s politics and conflicts. The POPAGANDA research team therefore aims to unpack the role played by myths, cosmology, religion, spirituality, and magic in both generating and challenging political legitimacy. The research team investigates how such opposition groups and their supporters among artists reinvent narratives rooted in these ancient belief systems in their artistic expressions. We examine how popular culture and art are used to both generate the legitimacy of political opposition groups and contest that of the state. We then explore how this practice of contestation affects political processes and power structures.

The doctoral project

A successful application is one that makes clear how it will contribute innovatively to the project as a whole, and candidates are encouraged to read the background material closely before writing their proposal. A complete description of the project will be made available to interested candidates upon request.

The Doctoral Researcher will work with an interdisciplinary team of researchers at PRIO and partner institutions in Myanmar (Naushawng Development Institute) and Thailand (Ubon Ratchathani University). The Doctoral Researcher will have a supervisor at PRIO, and a second supervisor at the PhD-granting institution. The Doctoral Researcher will be encouraged to apply for a place in the Research School in Peace and Conflict hosted by PRIO. Progress on the doctorate will be supported through regular presentations at internal seminars and involvement in appropriate research groups at PRIO, and opportunities to present work at international academic conferences and workshops. The PhD progress plan will be closely tied to the overall project plan.

The candidate will be expected to live in Oslo and will have a workplace at PRIO. The PhD degree, however, must be awarded by a degree-granting institution. Hence, the Doctoral Researcher will be responsible for applying to, and enrolling in a compatible PhD program. Different institutions may have different requirements, and candidates are encouraged to make enquiries about their eligibility for enrolling in a given program in advance. Tuition fees are not covered by the project.

Required and desired qualifications

Applicants must have the following qualifications:

  • Hold an M.A. (120 credits) or equivalent degree within the Humanities or Social sciences
  • Excellent communication and writing skills (English)
  • Relevant language proficiency in Burmese or Thai, or in a minority language of Myanmar or Thailand.

In addition, the following qualifications are desirable:

  • Experience with scientific publications, policy publications or conference presentations
  • Experience with conducting semi-structured interviews and fieldwork in Myanmar or Thailand
  • Skills in relevant research methods and analysis
  • Experience with teamwork
  • General computing skills
  • Experience with interdisciplinary work
  • Experience with organizing meetings and seminars

Application procedure

The application is to be submitted by way of an online form no later than
9 August 2021. 
The application must include the following attachments (as PDF files; all written in English):

  1. A 1-page cover letter that explains your motivation for applying for the position, with a confirmation that all formal requirements, as described above, are fulfilled
  2. A curriculum vitae, including a list of any publications
  3. One example of academic writing (e.g. M.A. thesis or conference paper)
  4. Scanned copies of original transcripts from higher education
  5. Name and contact details of two references
  6. A Doctoral Project description of max. 6 pages (including references), outlining:
  • How you plan to address the POPAGANDA research questions and focus your study to advance the research frontier
  • How you plan to organize and manage the data collection and analysis
  • A tentative outline of the PhD dissertation
  • A progress plan for your three-year doctoral research, including key milestones and a risk mitigation plan.

Shortlisted candidates after evaluation of the submitted applications will be invited to interviews in order to discuss the research plan in more detail and to provide further details about the position. Interviews (virtual meetings) will take place at the end of August 2021. The expected starting date for the position is 1 November 2021.

Additional information

The institute is located in spacious and attractive premises in central Oslo. Employee benefits include access to the PRIO cabin in the mountains, a subsidized canteen, weekly physiotherapy exercise, weekly running group and various social events. PRIO is an equal opportunity employer and values staff diversity. The working language at PRIO is English.

The starting salary for a Doctoral Researcher at PRIO in 2021 is NOK 498.400 (equivalent to step 56 in the Norwegian State salary system). Employees are offered membership in the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund. The Doctoral Project comes with funding earmarked for conferences, workshops and travel.

The successful candidate should have an interest in PRIO’s broader mission of conducting high-quality academic research on questions relevant to the promotion of a more peaceful world. For more information about PRIO’s vision and research, see

Requests to receive the POPAGANDA project description should be directed to Administrative Assistant Emma Qualischefski:, phone +47 22547700.

Other questions about the Doctoral Researcher position can be addressed to Senior Researcher Marte Nilsen: