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International PhD Contract on the Construction of the Orphan in 20th Century East-Central Europe

This offer is available in the following languages:
Français - Anglais

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General information

Reference : UMR8224-CLAROY-001
Workplace : PARIS 06
Date of publication : Monday, May 04, 2020
Scientific Responsible name : Clara Royer
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 October 2020
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic

Title: "All Alone" in East-Central Europe: Reinventing the Orphan from the Fascist to the Socialist Era
The PhD dissertation will focus on the discourses and practices surrounding the orphan condition in literature and/or visual arts (cinema, photography, graphic arts and so forth) in the wake of the violence and demographic upheavals that characterized 20th century East-Central Europe: hungers, wars, the Holocaust, forcible displacements of peoples, refugee camps, the rise of the Socialist state, the Cold War.
Following Kristallnacht, orphaned children became an international problem which required new intervention mechanisms and novel social actors: international organisms such as the Joint or the Red Cross, civil organizations, inter-State forms of cooperation, refugee camps, etc. Despite this internationalization, the management of orphaned children was also oftentimes an opportunity to reinforce different national discourses (Tara Zahra, The Lost Children, 2015). Very soon, the figure of the orphan invaded the arts, becoming central for movements as diverse as postwar, neo-realist cinema (Rosselini's Germany, Year Zero; Radványi's Somewhere in Europe), or, starting with the 1970s, in the rise of children-narrators fictions (Imre Kertész, Herta Müller, Agota Kristof…). The child's defamiliarizing voice and gaze on the world, made it a perfect device for putting Cold War societies in a critical perspective.
The dissertation should focus on the artistic norms used in describing and understanding the orphan experience and to what extent they carried, questioned or subverted other state or non-state norms that shaped the life of orphaned children. It can also rely on a social and institutional history which analyzes the ruptures and continuities in the way the orphan condition was framed from the 1930s to the emergence of the Socialist welfare state. Similarly, the dissertation can challenge the relative institutional stability of state socialism providing a more nuanced analysis of its welfare provisions.
Because of its interdisciplinary scope, applicants with a background in social history, literary studies and/or visual arts specialized in one or several countries of East-Central Europe may apply. They should command at least one language of the region. Literary, cinematographic or artistic works produced in a period ranging from the 1930s to the post-1989 era can be used.

Work Context

The selected candidate will be enrolled in the PhD program “Civilizations, Cultures, Literatures and Societies” (ED 4), within the Faculty of Arts of the Sorbonne University. They will be a member of the research group Eur'ORBEM “Cultures and Societies of Eastern, Balkan, and Central Europe” (CNRS, Sorbonne University, UMR 8224). Eur'ORBEM is an interdisciplinary research unit in social sciences and humanities which gathers experts on Eastern, Central and South-Eastern Europe. The PhD project is part of two research areas proposed by Eur'ORBEM: “History, Memory, Identities and Conflicts“ and “Arts and Transculturality”. The PhD student is expected to take full part in the scientific life of the research team. The PhD shall be supervised by Doc. Clara Royer, PhD, a specialist of East-Central European cultures at Sorbonne University ( The PhD student shall take part in the scientific life of the research team.

Constraints and risks

The PhD contract requires a mobility period in East-Central Europe. The PhD student should spend preferably 3 months per year gathering the necessary sources of their research. . According to the focus of their PhD dissertation, the PhD student may do fieldwork in at least one Visegrad country (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia). For this research period, they will be welcomed by the French Research Centre in Social Sciences (CEFRES – USR 3038 CNRS-MEAE) in Prague, Czech Republic CEFRES is part of the network of French Research Institutes Abroad (UMIFRE). CEFRES is therefore under the tutelage of both the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). The Center will provide the PhD student with administrative and logistic support while allowing a stimulating scientific environment thanks to its research Platform with The Charles University and the Czech Academy of sciences, but also through its scientific network spread in other Visegrad countries.

Additional Information

Applicants must have acquired a MA in SSH (literature, cinema studies, history, art studies, possibly anthropology) with a specialization on at least one of the Visegrad countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia) by the end of the university year (June 2020). The command of one of the languages from the region is mandatory. Applicants cannot be already enrolled in a PhD program at the time of their application. The PhD can be written in French or in English.
Applications may be submitted in French or English.
Application package:
- detailed resume
- a 1 page-long cover letter
- a PhD project (3-5 pages)
- transcripts of their previous university degrees,
- if applicable and already completed, a copy of their Masters thesis in a PDF (regardless of the actual date of the defense.
Preselected applicants will be interviewed by the selection committee. Due to the current sanitary crisis, interviews will take place via videoconference. Applicants are highly welcomed to ask any further question to Clara Royer via the CNRS Job Gate.

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