Postdoctoral Researcher (Objective 3)


Grade 6: Salary £25,854 - £30,870 p.a.

Applications are sought for the position of Postdoctoral Researcher focusing on the history of ritual and group formation, as part of an international project entitled 'Ritual, community and conflict', based in the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at the University of Oxford, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and directed by Professor Harvey Whitehouse.

The project brings together an international, interdisciplinary team of anthropologists, psychologists, historians, archaeologists, and evolutionary theorists from 13 universities conducting research at field sites in approximately ten countries around the world. This five-year programme of research investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups may be formed, inspired and coordinated: ritual. The project’s three major objectives are to investigate: (1) the psychological foundations of ritual; (2) the effects of ritual on ingroup cohesion and outgroup hostility; (3) the role of ritual in the evolution of competing political systems. The Postdoctoral Researcher will contribute to work on the third objective and will be supervised jointly by Professor Peter Turchin (University of Connecticut) and Professor Harvey Whitehouse. The position will be based at Oxford, but will require periodic trips to Connecticut.

The Postdoctoral Researcher will focus on the construction and analysis of a database dealing with social complexity and ritual over the past five thousand years of global history. The database will be used to test various theories of the evolution of social complexity with a particular focus on the role of ritual and religion.

The successful applicant will have a PhD that required substantial mining and analysis of historical material, well-developed organisational skills, willingness to spend extended periods at overseas universities and research sites, and the ability to work flexibly and supportively as part of a team. Postdoctoral researchers on this project will have the unique opportunity to work closely with experts in world-leading centres for psychological and anthropological research on cognition and religion in Europe and America.

This is a fixed-term post for 24 months, starting on 1 June 2011 and ending on 31 May 2013.

Candidates will be considered on the basis of the selection criteria outlined in the further particulars which can be obtained by visiting the website at or by email to The further particulars include details of the post and how to apply. The closing date for applications is noon on 30 March 2011.