PhD position – Historical analysis of the development of fishing collectivities as ICAs (Europe)


Across Europe, new bottom-up and self-governing institutions for the provisioning of energy, food, care and many other goods and services are currently increasingly being set up by citizens. Citizens hereby govern and use resources collectively according to the rules they decide upon as a group. The institutional design of these modern-day forms of citizen collectivities has many similarities with guilds, commons, cooperatives, and other institutions that have been developed in Europe’s history. The PhD-student will studying such historical forms of institutions for collective action, together with other team members of the Institutions for Collective Action research team, several of them also working for the UNICA-project. UNICA stands for “Building a UNified theory for the development and resilience of Institutions for Collective Action for Europe in the past millennium” and aims at building a unified theory that both explains the factors behind the development and spread of such “institutions for collective action” (ICAs) across Europe over the past millennium. In the project we will focus on the claim that these ICAs are more resilient organisations than top-down, share-holder types of organisations. This will be done by:

  1. Creating a spatio-temporal taxonomy of archetypes of ICAs for the past millennium
  2. Analyzing the scaling strategies of various ICAs over time
  3. A study of the relationship between size and heterogeneity of both members and resources (for fishing collectivities and mutuals) and their impact on the institutional design of the ICA.

The PhD-position fits under the 3rd part of the project and will focus on the micro-level, and in particular on the functioning of fishing collectivities, from the various forms of guilds in the early modern period to cooperatives formed by fishermen today. The focus will be on the internal functioning of such institutions, and how this changes over time, in relation to their size and heterogeneity. However, the relevance of the study of collectivities in fisheries goes far beyond a contribution to explaining what makes ICAs resilient. It also connects to highly relevant societal debates about -amongst others- the current challenges of the fishing industry (both legal, as in the fishing quota, and in social-economic sense), sustainability, and globalisation. Fisheries make critical contributions to the employment of approx. 40 million people employment across the globe, but also to food security and nutrition, with fish constituting an important source of nutrients for the poor and often being the cheapest form of animal protein. Nevertheless, fishing grounds are under continuous stress and their overexploitation may have substantial long-term effects on the world’s population. Understanding good governance, whereby collective action has always been an essential element, is thus vital, both on a local and global level. The project will be executed within the Institutions for Collective Action Team at the Business-Society-Management department of RSM, where sustainability is central to all research and cooperation with other disciplines is key. The researchers of the ICA-team (see www.collective-action/team) work in a broad range of sectors in various countries, have been trained in a variety of disciplines, and apply mixed-methods approaches in their work. Besides this, all members also contribute to collective endeavours to translate their academic research to and share it with the general public, through e.g. the Extreme Citizen Science Project

Further information about the project can be found at:

Required profile

  • Master’s degree in Humanities or Social sciences, with a specific interest in longitudinal approaches to understanding collective action
  • Experience with historical research and dealing with archival sources is a must for these positions
  • Inquisitive nature, next to a drive to increase your knowledge and a passion for research
  • Social skills to engage with other colleagues and societal stakeholders and interested in experimenting with new research approaches
  • People skills to work in a team, willingness to contribute to the work of others and to the functioning of the research team.
  • Sufficient discipline to master a broad base of scientific literature, also outside of history as a discipline
  • Interdisciplinary attitude, with a clear willingness to learn from other disciplines and to engage in debates with scholars with a different disciplinary background
  • Willingness to invest time and effort in sharing research results with the general public.

Do also note the ERIM-requirements (GMAT/GRE/TOEFL) to start the PhD-trajectory. There will be no exceptions to these requirements.

Expected output

  • At least 3 top journal articles
  • Active participation in and contribution to the ICA-team’s functioning, both academically and socially
  • Contributions to knowledge valorization via
  • Collaborative efforts to work together with various partners, both academic and societal.

More information about this vacancy and the application procedure

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