PhD Candidate: The Conceptual History of Ethics in Modern Arabic

1.0 FTE
Gross monthly salary
€ 2,770 - € 3,539
Required background
Research University Degree
Organizational unit
Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies
Application deadline

Are you fascinated by the history of ideas in the Arab world? By how the Arabic language developed in the modern age? By its discourse on ethics and how it has affected society? In this funded PhD position, you will research the modern history of the concept of ethics in Arabic. You will be mentored by a team of experts, gain access to university-wide, Dutch, and EU grant opportunities, and network with scholars across the globe.

The concept of ethics has played a pivotal role in modern Arabic discourse: from politicians invoking it as ’the primary deciding factor’ of national progress, to philosophers claiming it as the essence of Islamic ‘reason’, to TV shows instructing the public about ethical conduct. In this project you will study the development of the modern  Arabic concept of ethics  (akhlāq), investigating the history of moral terms and their use in intellectual, political, literary and other fields. Understanding this history is vital to understanding how ethics was articulated and, more broadly, how conceptualisations and re-conceptualisations of ethics were spread and transformed through educational, religious and political discourses to lay the groundwork for different conceptions of modern subjectivity.

The primary resources envisioned for this study are the Arabic journals and newspapers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (circa 1870-1950) which were a hotbed of intellectual and linguistic innovation. The main theoretical and methodological lens of the project is that of conceptual history. The concept of ethics is very broad, however, and within these bounds you are free to explore different research questions – e.g. focusing on how the concept of ethics was articulated in different religious and political discourses, how ethical terminology was translated, or how concepts of ethics were disseminated. You are also free to argue which journals, during which era are most appropriate for your project and you may suggest other sources as supplements. We are especially eager to receive proposals that suggest innovative interdisciplinary and interlinguistic approaches and make use of the growing opportunities offered by digital conceptual history.

Vivienne Matthies-Boon, professor at the Department of Philosophical Ethics and Political Philosophy, will be your promotor. Your daily supervisor will be Dr Harald Viersen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Islam, Politics and Society (IPS), who specialises in the modern history of ideas in the Middle East. A third supervisor will be assigned depending on the nature of the project.

The project will be funded by a Starter Grant awarded by the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies to dr. Harald Viersen. You will have a 10% teaching task.


  • You have an MA degree in Islamic Studies, Arabic, History, Philosophy, or another discipline related to your project.
  • You have a demonstrated interest in conceptual history or Arabic intellectual history.
  • You have the necessary knowledge of conceptual historiographical theory and method and other background knowledge necessary to complete your proposed project.
  • You have an excellent command of written and spoken English, an excellent command of written Arabic, and preferably command of additional languages relevant to the field.
  • You have a clear and persuasive style of writing.
  • You have excellent research and analytical skills.
  • You are able to work independently and as a member of a team. 

We are

You will be embedded in the Department of Islam, Politics and Society, the Center for Religion and Contemporary Society (CRCS); and the Graduate School of Humanities (GSH) of the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies. We are a small, but very active and tight-knit department. We organise research seminars where our members and invitees are given the opportunity to present and discuss their work on a regular basis and we very much encourage interdisciplinary cooperation, both within and outside our faculty.

Radboud University

At Radboud University, we aim to make an impact through our work. We achieve this by conducting groundbreaking research, providing high-quality education, offering excellent support, and fostering collaborations within and outside the university. In doing so, we contribute indispensably to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. To accomplish this, we need even more colleagues who, based on their expertise, are willing to search for answers. We advocate for an inclusive community and welcome employees with diverse backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. Will you also contribute to making the world a little better? You have a part to play.

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Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies
Staff and students in the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies reflect on the great challenges of our time, exploring concepts, belief systems and worldviews. In this way they provide philosophical and religious context to the societal debate and contribute to the analysis and solution of major societal challenges. The faculty has over 180 staff, organized in eight academic departments and four support departments. Our academics collaborate in six research centres and teach more than 1,000 students.

Our staff and students are committed. The lines of communication are short and each individual student and staff member is given ample attention. You can find more about our mission and vision on the 'About PTRS' page.

We offer

  • We will give you a temporary employment contract (1.0 FTE) of 1,5 years, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, your contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4-year contract).     
  • You will receive a starting salary of €2,770 gross per month based on a 38-hour working week, which will increase to €3,539 in the fourth year (salary scale P).
  • You will receive an 8% holiday allowance and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus. 
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Support Service. The Dual Career Programme assists your partner via support, tools, and resources to improve their chances of independently finding employment in the Netherlands. Our Family Support Service helps you and your partner feel welcome and at home by providing customised assistance in navigating local facilities, schools, and amenities. Also take a look at our support for international staff page to discover all our services for international employees.
  • You will receive extra days off. With full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the statutory 20. 

Additional employment conditions

Work and science require good employment practices. Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions reflect this. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself. For example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports membership. And, of course, we offer a good pension plan. We also give you plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Practical information and applying

You can apply only via the button below. Address your letter of application to dr. Harald Viersen. If you have any questions, please send an email to dr. Harald Viersen. Due to the holiday, phone calls will not be answered. In the application form, you will find which documents you need to include with your application.

The first interviews will take place on Monday 30 September 2024. You will preferably start your employment as soon as possible.

We can imagine you're curious about our application procedure. It describes what you can expect during the application procedure and how we handle your personal data and internal and external candidates. 

Apply now Application deadline

We would like to recruit our new colleague ourselves. Acquisition in response to this vacancy will not be appreciated.

Would you like more information?

Dr H.J. Viersen (Harald)

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