doc.funds Doktoratsprogramm "Cultural Mobility Studies"

As one of the most important instruments to promote cutting-edge research at the University of Vienna, the interdisciplinary Research Platform Mobile Cultures and Societies: Interdisciplinary Studies on Transnational Formationscontributes to the development of mobility studies as an innovative field of research highly relevant to socio-cultural developments of the past and present. Founded in 2014 after an international review process as a cooperation between the Faculty for Philological and Cultural Studies and the Faculty of Social Sciences and prolonged after an international evaluation, including a hearing, in Nov. 2017 for 3 additional years, the Platform offers a focused, consistent research program according to highest international standards. With the doc.funds Programs 7 primary investigators at different stages of their professorships (African Studies, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Development Studies, Geography, German Studies/Comparative Literature, Political Science), a research team of 2 PhDs, 1 coordinator, a large number of associated PhD students and postdoctoral researchers as well as cooperations with renowned institutions such as IFK (International Research Center for Cultural Studies), the Austrian UNESCO Commission, and the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy (Drexel University, Philadelphia), it reflects on and reacts to global processes of socio-cultural diversification. The studies to be conducted in the context of the existing PhD programs of each Faculty (Philological-Cultural Studies, Social Sciences, Earth Science) constitute high-quality, innovative, and foundational research in the context of the national and international scientific community of mobility researchers.

We promote innovative research in the area of socio-cultural mobility studies across three Faculties. Bringing various approaches and theories into dialog in our curriculum and mentoring program, we ask PhD projects to develop appropriate conceptual categories of research and interdisciplinary common ground in the field. Projects are to focus on investigating the relatedness of discourses and practices of mobility and stasis, on their aesthetic representation across genres, media, and cultural forms, as well as on appropriate methodologies situated at the crossroads of different disciplinary traditions. Case studies will ask in what ways and to what effect (im)mobilities and their meanings are articulated and negotiated, affirmed and/or culturally contested. The program is unique in offering a Graduate School model that continually involves a high-profile faculty and international mentors and enables junior researchers to pursue international careers within and beyond academia. It offers high-level supervision in teams of internal and external mentors and systematic training in methodologies, theories, and writing skills, and ensures success by team-building activities such as retreats and the joint organization of academic events. In addition, it co-funds research abroad (jointly with international and national cooperation partners) and summer schools, supports and produces peer-reviewed, international publications, and assists in the continuing acquisition of third-party funding as well as in building international networks during and after the doctoral training in cooperation with our partners. Thus, the program continues to create a unique framework for excellent PhD training at the University of Vienna.

African Studies

Supervisor: Kirsten Rüther

Kennzahl/Reference Number: 9624

In African studies, there is a trajectory of concepts and key research terms concerned with aspects of mobility. Geographical mobility, for instance, can be found in the slave voyages within Africa as well as across the Sahara, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic. Flight and migration represent pressing issues in current debates, but do not stand in isolation: the expansion of the colonial frontier, for instance, needs to be investigated with regard to geographical mobility in previous centuries that still impact African societies and African life itineraries. Moreover, social mobility has been studied in terms of class mobility and the production of inequality. Last but not least, change of religious affiliation, conversion, or ethnic, cultural or political affiliation may be studied in connection with mobility. More generally, the circulation of commodities, people and ideas, and resulting encounters and entanglements lead to questions about the rhythms, flows, and imaginaries of such movements.

In public debates, African mobilities are over-emphasized once they take place between the African continent and (especially) the global North, whereas forms of mobility within the global South are as little explored as the neglect of mobility within the continent—where, after all, dynamics of migration are still highest compared to movement elsewhere. My current research project on employment-tied housing in three cities (Lubumbashi, Livingstone, Thika) is concerned with what, since the late colonial period, happened in emerging African towns and industrial nodes, when due to industrialization African workers and their families were recruited across territories and borders to far-away places where employers and colonial authorities designed housing projects.

Applicants for the doc.funds program are invited to submit outlines for prospective PhD projects which through a particular thematic focus relate to any of the above-mentioned fields of mobility studies. Projects theoretically and methodologically situated within the field of historical studies are particularly welcome. 

American Studies

Supervisor: Alexandra Ganser

Kennzahl/Reference Number: 9622

Mobility has been at the core of US foundational mythology: journeys of exploration and discovery, the Puritan ‘errand into the wilderness’ as New World-Exodus, and westward expansion, upward social mobility (the American Dream), or space exploration as the tackling of new frontiers—such notions are articulated in numerous mobility narratives from the 15th century to the present (Paul/Ganser/Gerund 2011). Their protagonists have become heroic figures in a national archive of extraordinary achievement. Even though this Eurocentric, white-male dominated historiography has long been contested, it continues to resonate in inadvertent ways in tropes of American exceptionalism. Throughout US cultural history, geographical and social mobility—often seen as interdependent—have been pivotal in narratives of nation building and American subject formation. The clichéd notion that “[t]o be an American is to go somewhere” (Urry 2007: 103), however, tends to obliterate American immobilities. Following Cresswell (2006), there are forms of mobility which are ideologically and culturally legitimate but simultaneously depend on types of mobility which are illegal(ized), socially despised and/or unsanctioned. Critical mobility research in American studies sets out to critique dominant scripts of American mobility articulated in cultural forms from sub- and transnational perspectives and from gender-, race-, and class-critical angles, which will guide PhD projects in the context of this program.

My current work focusses on pirates, refugees, and the projected colonizers of outer space. The FWF project “Crisis and Discourses of (Il)Legitimacy in American Narratives of Piracy, 1678-1865” (2015-10/18) studies pirates as exemplary figures of non-dominant mobility, repeatedly legitimized through cultural and literary texts. A project I am currently developing in the context of a European network (ENMMA) centers on refugee literature as enacting ‘minor mobilities’ in North America, investigating the articulation of (im)mobility as entwined with prevalent discourses on nationhood, legality, race, gender, and class and asking how such texts, from Canada to the Caribbean, articulate traumatic experiences of flight and (im)mobilization by finding new aesthetic forms. In a smaller project, I explore outer space mobilities and the rhetoric of planetary colonization in Hollywood film, which I approach in terms of their use of the frontier trope from an ecocritical perspective.

Cultural Studies

Supervisor: Thomas Macho

Kennzahl/Reference Number: 9625

Since the establishment of statistical administration and demographic population management in the context modern nation states, the orders of horizontal and ‘vertical migration,’ immigration and emigration through birth and death, are becoming closely interwoven as new travel documents regularly record dates and places of birth as indicative of genealogy and national affiliation. This biopolitical practice gains plausibility not merely by recourse to birth and death registers established centuries ago, but also by implicit reference to religious, philosophical, and literary metaphorizing of life as a journey from birth to death. The opening questions in Ernst Bloch's Principle of Hope (1995: 1)—“Who are we? Where do we come from? Where do we go?”—make manifest the discovery of time as the horizon of existential mobility. Bloch’s questions no longer aim at a place which has been abandoned in order to reach a different place, but at the spaces before birth and after death. The imaginations of ‘vertical migration’ reflect religious aspects, from the horror of an all-too-short life to the promise of genealogical affiliation proposed by Vilém Flusser or John Berger. The notion of belonging indicates that ’vertical migration’ imaginaries are older than most notions of horizontal mobility. Hence, a research team around Maximilian Schich, Chaoming Song, Yong-Yeol Ahn, Alexander Mirsky, Mauro Martino, Albert-László Barabási, and Dirk Helbing has created a framework of cultural history by linking birth and death places of well-known personalities from a period of two thousand years. In the diagrams published (Science 8/2014), the history of the formation of metropoles like London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, or Vienna becomes visible in unexpected clearness, as do the global patterns and local instabilities in the dynamics of human and cultural mobility. The project builds on such research, especially in regard to the historical and cultural diversity of travel documents, their techniques of visualizing and identifying bearers, as well as the spatial-architectural design of immigration situations, from Ellis Island to contemporary Immigration Offices with their monitoring systems, and PhD projects could study related spaces from a cultural studies perspective.

Development Studies

Supervisor: Petra Dannecker

Kennzahl/Reference Number: 9627

Development Sociology has been concerned with exploring the theoretical and practical issues of development as process, discourse, and practice. Key concerns of sociological and socio-economic research regarding development processes (social change and inequality on a global, regional as well as local level; transformations of norms, values, and knowledge; emergence of new socio-economic and political structures in the global South) are analyzed and conditions and possibilities of social change elucidated. Recently, questions of how migration and mobility intersect with development processes have become important (Glick Schiller & Faist 2009; Castles 2009). Studying the relation between mobility and development has not produced new insights concerning social transformation processes that transcend national borders also concerning the global North, since similar development processes can be increasingly observed here, too. In the project “Female Migrant Entrepreneurs in Vienna” (funded by OeNB), we analyze how female ‘migrant’ entrepreneurs connect their mobility to their social realities and how mobility influences their economic activities, social interactions, and subjectivities. Based on qualitative interviews, we investigate shortcomings in debates on ‘ethnic’ entrepreneurship and their gender bias. The relation between migration and social mobility is also a major theme in the EU Erasmus+ Capacity Building Project for Higher Education, KNOTS. In the project I am coordinating, we develop transdisciplinary teaching and research strategies in close collaboration between the higher education sector and non-academic actors in our partner countries, Vietnam and Thailand. The project aims at establishing networks of multi-lateral and transdisciplinary studies with a focus on migration and social inequality, a topic highly relevant in both countries. In Thailand, we study the in-migration of labor migrants from neighboring countries; in Vietnam, internal migration and out-migration. Both projects have shown that the relation between mobility and social inequality, between spatial and social mobility, is increasingly relevant in the global North and South.

My current research asks how to theoretically and methodologically conceptualize this relation, discussing the key concepts used to analyze the interrelation of social, political and cultural processes linked to mobility. Concepts like transnationalization, diasporization, border studies, diversity, and/or brokerage examine the relationship between spatial and social mobility on a global scale. To analyze how these concepts are connected beyond their respective fields and how they can be further developed from an inter- and/or transdisciplinary perspective presents a challenge to be tackled in order to understand the complexities of global connectedness. 

In addition to the points mentioned in the job advertisement, the applicants for the PhD project in Development Studies should have:
- Good knowledge of social science research methods;
- Experience in conducting empirical research
- and be interested in conducting her/his PhD in the broader context of the relationship between spatial and social mobility. Thereby a focus on the ‘Global South’ or the relation between the ‘Global South’ and the Global North’ is welcomed.


Supervisor: Patrick Sakdapolrak

Kennzahl/Reference Number: 9626

“Migration as adaptation” and agricultural change. Insights from mobility and translocality perspectives 

Geography has traditionally dealt with the relationship between mobility and fixity in methodological and theoretical terms (Cresswell & Merriman 2009). While the “new mobilities paradigm” helped transcend a “sedentary bias” (Bakewell 2008), human geography has been cautious about ideas of hyper-mobility, analyzing conditions under which (im)mobilities are produced (Adey 2006). The tension between mobility and fixity informs the concept of translocality - described by Brickell and Datta (2011: 3) as "situatedness during mobility". Both concepts - mobility (Cresswell 2010) and translocality (Greiner/Sakdapolrak 2013a-b) - have informed past research on the migration-environment nexus, and have facilitated a better comprehension of the dynamics involved (see e.g. two recent research projects: "Building Resilience through Translocality"; "Translocal Relations & Reorganization of Socio-ecological Systems"). Research results indicate that migration in the context of environmental and climate change including migration as adaptation needs to be analysed and understood as intertwined with the broader processes of agricultural and rural change. The PhD project should adopt a mobility / translocality perspective and analyse “migration as adaptation” in the context of agricultural and rural change processes. Besides the embeddedness in the doc.funds doctoral programme "Cultural Mobility Studies", the PhD project will be closely linked to the ongoing Horizon 2020 project “Leaving something behind – Migration governance and agricultural & rural change in ‘home’ communities: comparative experience from Europe, Asia and Africa” (start February 2019). The project should be based on empirical research in one of the following countries: Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Morocco, the Philippines or Thailand.

In addition to the points mentioned in the job advertisement, the applicants for the PhD project in Geography should have:
- Good knowledge of social science research methods;
- Experience in conducting empirical research (e.g. in the course of the Master thesis);
- Familiarity with and networks in the case study country is an Advantage;
- Command of German language is not required for the position 


The project proposal for Geography should be a maximum of 1500 words

Future information:
Working Group Population, Environment, Development

Modern German Studies/Comparative Literature

Supervisor: Annegret Pelz

Kennzahl/Reference Number: 9623

For literary studies, mobility has been fundamental in the securing of literary tradition on the one hand and for disseminating, translating, and communicating signs and meanings on the other. The mobility of symbolic systems entails concrete local transfer processes and practices. Hence, cultural mobility and change (Deines/Feige/Seel 2012) can be seen as both mediating (Adey 2010) and mediated (Keightley/Reading 2014). Research on representations of global mobility from a contemporary or historical perspective (Berbig/Göttsche 2013) on spaces of cultural contact in which the routes of travelers, tourists, and other mobile populations cross, with regard to media portability (Stingelin/Thiele 2009), and the mobility of literary forms are of interest for mobility-focused German and comparative literary studies (18th-21st century). Research activities have demonstrated that transportable media and new literary forms point to a long history of network organization and conviviality no longer defined territorially (Pelz 2013). Portable property, paper objects, and diasporic media (Mayer 2005) follow spatial and temporal trajectories bearing different types of inscriptions. With their ability to draw together (Latour 1990), portable collection books for instance, precursors to contemporary digital network media, gained importance for people moving in European and global networks (Moores 2012). 

Related PhD projects could inquire into collecting, selecting, and assembling practices and the relation between portable media and localized forms of belonging, and explore the function of portable and mobile objects, from books to pieces of furniture. They probe theoretical considerations with regard to portable mediality and direct attention to forms as part of a network and community-structuring practice (Levine 2015). In an age of post-traditional and mobile communities, new situational forms of associating and modes of coming together regulate a community life in which the individual occasionally immerses her-/himself, but to which s/he is not permanently bound (Rosa 2010). As Barthes (2013) and Ette (2010) point out, for this new mode of living together, shared languages and images are a genuine site of community building.

Political Science

Supervisor: Birgit Sauer

Kennzahl/Reference Number: 9628

Political Science targets mobility in several ways: first, social mobility has been on the agenda since the 1970s, asking how it impacts on the participation, voting behavior, and representation in Western democracies. Second, the issue of mobility and movement has been tackled in studies on new social movements, exploring how new ways of mobilizing people impact on political activities, agenda setting, and policy solutions. Third, and recently most important, is research on migration, e.g. causes of people’s mobility, from war to labor migration; laws and regulations in host countries which impact on migrant im/mobility, ways of creating belonging/non-belonging, identity, and political participation (border regimes, integration policies). Research focuses on migrant journeys and the impact of how people move, which resources migrants need and acquire, and effects on policies and politics in different countries. A research project on unattended minor migrants (“In Whose Best Interest? Exploring Unaccompanied Minors’ Rights Through the Lens of Migration and Asylum Procedures”), funded by the European Commission, studies how the international norm of the ‘best interest of the child’ has been realized with regard to young refugees arriving in Austria.

Recently, the so-called affective turn has led to research questions such as how affects create networks between migrants during their journeys, which affects migrants are confronted with in host countries, how affects foster the integration of migrants and/or refugees in host countries, or how public discourse on refugees is propelled by emotion. This perspective is innovative for Political Science as it adds the notion of non-conscious but not a-rational emotions and affects to studies based on rational actors (migrants, refugees, policy makers, citizens). I conducted 2 projects on the transformation of state bureaucracies (OeNB and FWF-funded) and the role of affect in these processes. Another research proposal (under review, FWF & Slovenian Research Fund) aims to analyze the mobility and immobilization of refugees on the so-called ‘Balkan route’ and (affective) mobilizations of media. PhD students analyze affective processes of migration and integration in a comparative perspective. Interdisciplinary cooperation in the program is possible on migration but also on a methodological level of combining an institutionalist approach with studies of text material.

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