PhD Position – NIOD-KNAW – Amsterdam

NIOD is looking for a PhD candidate “Technologies of Identification and Politics of Reconciliation in Vietnam” at NIOD and University of Amsterdam.

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

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”. Detail description of the project can be found in this link: 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?
  3. American- Vietnam politics of collaboration and normalization. Tracing the politics and practice of collaborative science, this PhD project focuses on how the missing war dead and forensic expertise applied to resolve their absence have influenced postwar relations between the two former combatant states. Researching the developments of resources and expertise by both American and Vietnamese governments – and noting instances of their co-production – the PhD researcher will address such questions as: How have the two states pursued the scientific endeavor of accounting for their respective missing war dead? What role does expertise play in negotiating the terms of their mutual engagement and collaboration? How does missing war dead open up or close off possibilities for exchange across the temporal gaps and social rupture introduced by violent conflict?

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.


  • 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 Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudies

Het NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudies (NIOD – KNAW) is een onderzoeksinstituut van de KNAW. De expertise van het NIOD ligt bij de verspreiding van kennis over de Tweede Wereldoorlog, de Holocaust en genocide. Naast wetenschappelijk onderzoek biedt het NIOD een inhoudelijk sterke en intensieve dienstverlening. Zowel professionals als particulieren kunnen bij het NIOD terecht voor informatie of het raadplegen van de uitgebreide collectie.

Additionele informatie

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

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