Post-Doc Researcher Twisted development: Failed attempts to create export textile production in Sub-Saharan Africa, ca. 1810-1990 (deadline 15 May 2018))

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The Department of History and Art History seeks to appoint a Post-Doc Researcher for the project “Race to the bottom? Family labour, household livelihood and consumption in the relocation of global cotton manufacturing, ca. 1750-1990”, funded by means of an ERC Consolidator grant awarded to prof. Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk.

The Post-Doc Researcher will be working on the following sub-project of this ERC-project:

Twisted development. Failed attempts to create export textile production in Sub-Saharan Africa, ca. 1810-1990

This 3-year post-doc project investigates the impact of colonial policies in two sub-Saharan African countries with very different factor endowments and different colonizing powers. It aims to answer the question of why some areas of the world, despite relatively favourable conditions for textile production, including relatively low wages, nevertheless did not evolve into successful cotton textile exporters. To this end, two sub-Saharan African countries, Nigeria and D.R. Congo will be studied. These two countries make an interesting comparison for several reasons. Initial factor endowment differed, with Nigeria being relatively densely populated in contrast to the Congo, which was land-abundant. Second, in Nigeria, men and women had engaged in a flourishing pre-colonial cotton textile industry, which enjoyed developments in economies of scale during the nineteenth century, but purportedly fell into decline with the 20th-century growth of British textile imports. In the Congo, on the other hand, pre-colonial textile making was largely limited to small-scale raffia (palm) cloth. Third, these countries had different colonizers during the late 19th/early 20th century (Britain and Belgium), which pursued quite diverse colonial policies. The Belgians in Congo made efforts to industrialize the colony on a large scale, after first having focused on the exploitation of plantation labour and mining. In British Nigeria, initiatives to revive local weaving were also undertaken, yet initially these projects did not fare well, as local households were reluctant to accept new technologies for women because of existing gender norms. In the 1980s, however, in the context of enduring economic crisis, traditional hand weaving revived in particular regions, and found a stable internal market. Likewise, textiles from Congo are known to have been popular on the continental African market. Despite these favourable developments, large-scale industrialization of textile production has not taken off in these countries.


A successful Post-Doc Researcher should preferably have:

  • a PhD in Economic History, Economics or any another relevant discipline;
  • demonstrable affinity with the scope of the project;
  • knowledge and experience with data-driven digital methods and techniques;
  • strong analytical skills and the ability to think in structures;
  • excellent command of English, both written and orally;
  • experience with archival research;
  • strong writing skills;
  • capacity to work both as a creative and independent Researcher and as part of a multidisciplinary project team.Conditions


We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE) for the duration of 36 months, starting 1 October 2018. The appointment is for an initial period of 12 months which, after a satisfactory first period, will be extended by another 24 months (3 years in total). The gross salary – depending on previous qualifications and experience  – ranges between €3,238  and €3,475 (scale 10/11 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) gross per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 % per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information is available at: working at Utrecht University.

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Additional information

A brief project summary is available on the ERC website (click tab “Summary”).
Enquiries can be made to Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk, An extended research description is available upon request.


Written applications should address each of the criteria mentioned under qualifications and include the following documents:

  • cover letter;
  • curriculum vitae;
  • research proposal (600-1,200 words);
  • copy of relevant diplomas and grades;
  • copy of a recent academic publication (max. 30 pages)
  • names and contact details of two referees.

Please note that incomplete applications cannot be included in the subsequent selection procedure.

Candidates who make the shortlist will be invited for an interview. These may be conducted in person in Utrecht or via Skype. Interviews are scheduled to take place in the week of 11 June.

Please use the application button on the original vacancy web page. The application deadline is 15 May 2018.
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