The Faculty of Arts is seeking to fill 2 full-time (100 %) vacancies in the Department of History for a
Doctoral student in the area of the history of consumption and material culture (appointment in the Centre for Urban History)
The position is offered in the framework of the University of Antwerp-funded TOP-project “Fashioning ‘old and new’. Secondary markets, commodity value conventions and the dawn of consumer societies in Western Europe (18th-19th centuries)”
Present-day policies to reinvigorate secondary markets and to reinforce the circular economy show a belief in societal progress through technological innovation and supply-side engineering. However, what is crucial in understanding our current ‘throwaway’-attitudes – and any current-day policies shaping these – is a better knowledge of historically and culturally constructed demand-side issues, i.e. the formation of long-running consumer habits around commodities that were handled on secondary markets. The central ambition of this project is to unravel the mental and cultural frameworks that shaped the desire and need for products on secondary markets in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Within this crucial timeframe, Northwestern Europe saw the dawn of present-day-consumer attitudes and habits in dealing with ‘old’ and ‘discarded’ belongings. Hitherto, however, secondary markets have been far too often studied in isolation from the first-hand markets. Surprisingly little is known about the deep cultural and mental frameworks in which consumer preferences and perceived product qualities were embedded, and how these transformed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Drawing on a rich, and largely unexplored corpus of newspaper advertisements for upcoming auctions of second-hand goods, this innovative project seeks to unravel precisely the changing commodity value conventions among the taste-making elites in society and their relationship with the emerging ‘consumer societies’ of the modern era. Through a careful analysis of the kind of persuasive descriptors that were used to describe auctioned goods (with adjectives such as ‘curious’, ‘fine’, ‘elegant’, etc.), it becomes possible to map the changing consumer mindsets and bundles of commodity characteristics through time. The latter will be made possible through a new ‘big-data’ methodology. A thorough comparison of word and cultural embedding in time and place will help to unravel how consumer mentalities were entangled with changing product qualities. The case studies (in England, France, the Low Countries) were carefully chosen to include the major fashion making metropolises of the period, as well as more modest provincial and commercial towns, all with a different social architecture.
The successful candidates will work closely together on two interrelated, yet autonomous PhD-research projects each addressing a different timeframe but working on a collective data-infrastructure and a shared problem analysis:
1) The first project, Neophilia and aesthetics for a polite society; changing commodity value conventions, c.1730-c.1820 (Promotors: Blondé and De Munck) will examine the central hypothesis that the conventions that shaped the second-hand market in the eighteenth century were entangled with the attested eighteenth-century craze for novelty and fashions on the primary market.
2) The second PhD-project, entitled Romanticism and aesthetics for an industrial society; changing commodity value conventions, c. 1820-c. 1914 (Promotors: Blondé and Van Damme) will examine the central hypothesis that the conventions shaping the second-hand market in the nineteenth-century were fundamentally entangled with an industrialising mass product market, which increasingly favoured, among others, ‘cheapness’, ‘standardisation’ and ‘hygiene’.
Profile and requirements
How to apply?
The University of Antwerp is a family friendly organization, with a focus on equal opportunities and diversity. Our HR-policy for researchers was awarded by the European Commission with the quality label HR Excellence in research.
We support the Science4Refugees initiative and encourage asylum-seeking, refugee scientists and researchers to apply for a job at the University of Antwerp.