NIOD-KNAW | PhD candidate “Technologies of Identification and Politics of Reconciliation in Vietnam”

In support of the project “Bones of Contention: Technologies of Identification and Politics of Reconciliation in Vietnam” NIOD is looking for a PhD candidate.

The Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD) is a scientifically independent and simultaneously strongly socially-oriented institution. The original expertise of NIOD lies within the dissemination of knowledge about the Second World War and the Holocaust in the Netherlands. Nowadays, this expertise is also used to study mass violence and genocides in the rest of the world. In addition to scientific research, NIOD offers substantively strong and intensive services. NIOD’s archives and collections about war, the Second World War in the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies, the Holocaust and other genocides in the 20th and 21st century are accessible for all interested parties. Digitally or in our reading room. NIOD is located in a monumental building of the Central Government Real Estate Agency in the centre of Amsterdam. It manages 3 kilometres of in-house archive, a library with 75,000 titles, and a large photo collection. The NIOD has around 75 employees, and is one of the 15 institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Project description:
You will work as part of the team on the NWO-funded Vidi project: “Bones of Contention: Technologies of Identification and Politics of Reconciliation in Vietnam”. This project is awarded to and will be led by Associate Professor, Dr. Tam T. T. Ngo, senior researcher of NIOD/KNAW (Amsterdam) and the Max Planck Institute for the study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (Goettingen, Germany). Your PhD thesis will be defended at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam (

The research project Bones of Contention investigates the use of Spiritual Forensics and DNA Forensics in finding and identifying missing war dead in Vietnam and how the employment of these identification technologies influences the country’s postwar reconciliation. Facing the challenge of finding and identifying millions of missing war dead, Vietnamese families since the 1990s have resorted to “spiritual forensics”, a variety of spiritual techniques to locate and name the dead. The success of ‘spiritual forensics’ challenged Communist atheism and the state’s arbitrary control over whose bodies can be unearthed and repatriated and whose cannot. To counter spiritual forensics, in 2013 the Vietnamese began to import top-notch DNA-based forensic technology, which is also only permitted in the identification of the remains of those who died fighting for, not against, the communist government. Bones of Contention aims to shed light on the ways in which the Vietnamese deal with their violent past and their deep divisions and to further the understanding of the nature of national sovereignty in the Vietnamese case.

Within the framework of Bones of Contention, the PhD candidate will investigate one of the following topics:

  1. The use of spiritual forensics and DNA forensics to search for and identify fallen soldiers of former Republic of Vietnam by their surviving relatives, friends, and allies. How does the employment of (or the lack thereof) these technologies influence their perception of postwar reconciliation?
  2. Remembrance and commemoration politics in South Vietnam and among Vietnamese Diasporas. A special preference will be given to proposals of study about remembrance and commemoration politics in the Cambodian-Vietnam borderland. Remembrance and commemoration politics in South Vietnam and among Vietnamese Diasporas. How do the fact of missing remains influence and shape the theological and religious agendas of the Catholic Church and the Buddhist organizations?

Research Areas: South Vietnam, Vietnamese Diasporas in America and Europe.



  • A completed research MA or equivalent in Anthropology, Political Sciences, Sociology, History, Religious Studies, Cultural Studies, or Museum Studies.
  • It is necessary that candidates have a strong background in qualitative research methods, with proven field research experience (ethnography, in-depth interviews and/or oral history).
  • Linguistic competence in the research languages (Vietnamese) is an absolute requirement.
  • Excellent command of English in oral and written form.
  • Demonstrable strong affinity with scientific research.
  • The ability to work collaboratively in an international research team.
  • The proven capacity to work with deadlines.

Experience with knowledge utilization via various media platform will be considered a plus.

Conditions of employment


  • NIOD offers an informal, internationally-oriented working environment with a great deal of room for individual initiative and responsibility.
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,325 per month, and will increase to €2,972 in the fourth year (p scale).
  • In addition to the salary: an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • Candidates who comes from outside the Netherlands may qualify for tax discount (30% ruling link)
  • You will be appointed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years.
  • The UFO job profile of PhD student level 1 applies to this position.

NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD-KNAW) is an Academy research institute. The NIOD’s expertise lies in the dissemination of knowledge about the Second World War, the Holocaust and genocide. In addition to research, NIOD offers content-rich, intensive services. Both professionals and private individuals can approach NIOD for information or to consult its extensive collection.

Additional information
For more information you can contact associate professor dr. Tam T. T. Ngo at


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