Job Opening: PhD Research Fellowship in Okinawan Studies

Job description

One Doctoral Research Fellowship (SKO 1017) in Okinawan Studies is available at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo.

The PhD candidate will take part in the ERC-funded project “Whales of Power: Aquatic Mammals, Devotional Practices, and Environmental Change in Maritime East Asia”, led by Aike P. Rots. Whales of Power is concerned with the comparative study of human-cetacean relations in maritime East Asia, as expressed in popular worship practices and beliefs in different parts of the region. We will examine several of these traditions through a combination of historical and ethnographic research. Marine mammals and associated worship practices will serve as a prism through which we approach human responses to socio-economic and environmental change in Asian coastal communities. The project has three important theoretical objectives: 1) apply recent theoretical developments associated with “environmental humanities” to the comparative study of popular religion; 2) reconsider the role of local worship traditions in the Asian Secular Age, examining the new meanings attributed to ritual practices; and 3) establish a new comparative paradigm in Asian studies.

The PhD candidate will work on marine mammals, sacralisation, and environmental activism in Okinawa. S/he will examine claims that the dugong has traditionally been seen as a sacred animal, associated with creation myths and the Ryukyu royal institution. In addition, s/he will analyse the current significance of the dugong as a critically endangered species which has come to symbolise the preservation of Henoko Bay, an area with high biodiversity, where a large new military base is currently under construction. Through interviews and participant observation within activist communities in Okinawa, the PhD candidate will explore the different meanings attributed to the dugong today, and explore internal debates about the significance of Okinawan “heritage” and of “sacred” animals and places in contemporary struggles for environmental protection and self-determination.

Applicants are invited to apply with a project proposal in which they elaborate on how they will approach this case study theoretically and methodologically. The case study should be placed within the overall framework of the Whales of Power project, and the candidate should show familiarity with the main project’s contents and objectives. For more information about Whales of Power, and the different work packages, see the project website. If you have any questions, please contact the project leader, Aike Rots:

For more information, see the following website:

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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