Postdoc in History of Islam/Arabic Studies (project 2) – Leiden University

Postdoctoral Researcher in History of Islam/ Arabic Studies

The Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University invites applications for a fulltime Postdoctoral position in history of Islam. The postdoctoral researcher will carry out research in the fram…

Job Description

Scholars have long recognized that although Shiʿi claims emerged early in Islamic history, Imami Shiʿism took a couple of centuries to crystallise. Scholarship on Shiʿism has tended to focus on doctrine, but hitherto there has been little research into the institutions and social networks of early Imami Shiʿism. The project aims to propose the first rigorously historical model for how, when and why a distinctive Imami Shiʿi Imamate emerged and developed as an institution. The ImBod project will frame the Imamate as a set of social interactions between the Imams, and the community who venerated them, within the broader networks of the early Islamic empire. Members of the ImBod project team will be assigned particular thematic spheres in order to identify and study the networks, actors, institutions, spaces, objects and processes through which the Imamate was mediated and performed within the Imami Shiʿi community and beyond.

The project will bring together a broad array of sources (material, documentary and textual) and approaches, both traditional close-reading and computational analysis in order to approach the vast, challenging textual corpus of Shiʿi and non-Shiʿi texts that bear on the development of the Imamate.

3 positions will be available within the ImBod team: a PhD candidate; a Postdoctoral researcher (3 years); and a Postdoctoral researcher (2 years).

Postdoctoral researcher (project 2): Mapping the Imami Community and its Power-Brokers

The aim of this subproject will be to map out the networks of material influence and knowledge-transmission through which the Imamate was mediated to the community. In particular the aim will be to identify and analyse the role of powerbrokers within the Imami the community. Tools will therefore be developed to analyse the networks of Imamate and community. The candidate for this position will therefore have to work to develop a specific project topic within this broad area. Possible questions to address are the shift of Imami Shiʿi centres between Iraq, Iran and other geographical areas; marriage and dynastic relationships; the part played in Imamic influence by local dynasties of scholars; the role of Arab migration versus non-Arab conversion to Shiʿi Islam in the spread of the community; and the process of institutionalisation of authority in particular geographical centres like Qumm and Nishapur. The candidate will be expected to engage with three main textual corpora in particular: bio-bibliographical texts (rijāl and fihrist works); genealogical literature (nasab, ansāb); and hadith works with their chains of transmitter names (isnād). Both Shiʿi and non-Shiʿi literature should be addressed. A significant aspect of this subproject will be training to implement digital humanities tools in order to build and analyse networks, and to use these tools both collaboratively and autonomously to achieve project goals

More information about the project can be found here.

Key responsibilities:

  • Submit at least 3 articles related to project themes for publication
  • Work towards editing a special issue or edited volume
  • Attend regular in-person team meetings
  • Prepare and process textual resources for computational analysis by the project team as a whole
  • Present research at international workshops and conferences
  • Assist in event planning and organisation
  • Assist in promoting the project’s visibility on project websites



  • A PhD in a related field
  • Excellent (medieval) Arabic reading skills
  • Excellent command of the English language
  • Ability to develop original research
  • Commitment to working in a team
  • A willingness to embrace new approaches, including digital humanities (no prior experience necessary)

Conditions of Employment

Terms and conditions
We offer a fulltime, fixed-term position from 1 February 2024 until 31 January 2027. The starting salary is € 3,974.- gross per month (pay scale 11, step 0), based on a fulltime employment, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities and commensurate with qualifications and experience (negotiations for a new CLA are ongoing). Depending on qualifications, you may start at the appropriate step in scale 10 until you fully meet the requirements for scale 11 as specified by the Faculty of Humanities, particularly with regard to the number of years of relevant work experience.

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break:

D&I statement
Diversity and inclusion are core values of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.


Our Faculty/ Institute
The Faculty of Humanities is an international centre for the study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. We take culture broadly to include religions, philosophies, and worldviews as well as literature, art, and technology. We aim to contribute to knowledge, the sustainable well-being of societies, and the understanding of the cognitive, historical, cultural, artistic, and social aspects of human life. Our faculty is home to more than 7,000 students and 900 staff members. For more information: The PhD candidate will hold a position in the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), home to a large group of experts on the Middle East and Asia from prehistory to the present.

Additional Information

Enquiries can be made to the project’s PI, Dr Edmund Hayes
Information about LIAS.
Information about the Faculty of Humanities.
Click here for more information about the organisation.


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