PhD position: the history of disability in a Dutch and an international context

Job description

The Department of Art & Culture, History, and Antiquity (AHA) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is offering a paid position for a PhD student to study the international impact and the extensive transnational networks of the Het Dorp community, a model inclusive neighbourhood established in the 1960s near the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands. The expected starting date is 1 September 2022.

The position is part of the Dutch Research Foundation (NWO) Open Competition in the Humanities research project Disability and Self-Governance: a Global Microhistory of Het Dorp Community and its Cultural Heritage from the 1960s. Apart from this advertised PhD position, the project contains a sub-project on the microhistory of Het Dorp community at the PhD level and a part-time postdoc project on the public history of Het Dorp and its cultural heritage.

How can engagement with the concept of disability contribute to writing more inclusive histories? The project adopts this concept as its central analytical category for undertaking the first comprehensive historical study ofHet Dorp – a self-governing, accessible residential community for people with severe physical disabilities and chronic illness near Arnhem which was initiated in 1962 by the largest telethon in Dutch history. Employing the methodologies of global microhistory and participatory heritagization the research project reconstructs the (micro) history of Het Dorp in the context of societal exclusion & inclusion, accessible living and the changing role of the welfare state in providing for vulnerable groups in the Netherlands and globally. It also generates new insights into postwar global history by illuminating Het Dorp’s hitherto unrecognized impact as a model inclusive community in several countries across the word, including Japan, Austria, and Hungary. It adopts a public history perspective and with the active participation of Het Dorp’s community members it integrates its societal, cultural and architectural legacy into the field of heritage and memory studies.

The advertised PhD position
This PhD project will undertake a historical study of Het Dorp as a space of international encounters and knowledge exchange against the backdrop of global developments since the 1960s: the different stages of the Cold War, the expansion and the retreat of the welfare state, the changing attitudes towards disabled people, the advances of the disability movement, technological and architectural innovations. Based on archival material drawn both from Het Dorp and from international archives it will reconstruct Het Dorp’s extensive networks which crossed ideological divides. Moreover, it will illuminate its role as a facilitator of expert collaboration, for example around the issues of independent living, rehabilitation, recreation and disability advocacy.

The PhD supervisors will be Monika Baár (VU) and Paul van Trigt (Leiden), an additional supervisor may also be appointed.

Your duties

  • conduct research on the project’s topic, resulting in a PhD dissertation and at one journal publication and one chapter in an edited volume
  • participate in the research activities of AHA
  • participate in the research activities of the research group (and related national and international events)
  • participate in teaching activities of AHA (max. 10% of your time)
  • participate in the VU PhD training program and the training program of a relevant national research school,for example the Research School for Social and Economic History, the N.W. Posthumus Institute


  • a Master’s or Research Master’s (MPhil) degree in History, completed or to be completed in this academic year. We will also consider outstanding candidates with degrees in related fields
  • a promising academic profile as shown in grade transcripts, final thesis, and curriculum vitae
  • interest in the history of disability (previous experience in this topic is welcome but not required) and in the history of social movements and the history of knowledge in an international and global context
  • motivation and ability to work as part of a research team
  • excellent spoken and written English as well as strong academic writing skills
  • knowledge of the Dutch language at least at B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL). Candidates without sufficient knowledge of Dutch will be offered and expected to follow appropriate language courses organized by the university
  • the knowledge of additional European languages and/or Japanese is an advantage

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts € 2.443 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to € 3,111 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

Faculty of Humanities
The Faculty of Humanities links a number of fields of study: Language, Literature and Communication, Art & Culture, History, Antiquities and Philosophy. Our teaching and research focus on current societal and scientific themes: from artificial intelligence to visual culture, from urbanization to the history of slavery, from ‘fake news’ in journalism to communication in organizations. We strive to ensure small group sizes. Innovative education and interdisciplinary research are our hallmarks.

Working at the Faculty of Humanities means making a real contribution to the quality of leading education and research in an inspiring and personal work and study climate. We employ more than 350 staff members, and we are home to around 2,000 students.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae including the contact details of two referees (no letters necessary at this stage) and cover letter until June 15, 2022.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact project leader:

Name: Monika Baár


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