Vacancy: 3 PhD Scholarships

The Roosevelt Institute for American Studies is pleased to offer 3 full PhD scholarships, situated within the project “Racial Democracy: Challenges to Civil Democratic Ideals in American History.”

The project is sponsored by the Stichting Praesidium Libertatis I and supervised by Prof. Dr. Damian Pargas, in conjunction with Leiden University. The scholarships will run from 1 January 2021 through 31 December 2024.

The Project:

Throughout US history structural acts of civic injustice—especially those aimed at excluding racial minorities from political participation, constitutional rights, and even legal personhood—have had a profound impact on the nature and development of American democracy, at both the local and national levels. From Dred Scott to Jim Crow, from spaces of constitutional exception in overseas territories to voter suppression tactics on the mainland, civic democratic ideals have frequently been undermined or challenged by attempts to construct a “white man’s republic.”

This project will explore practices and institutionalized manifestations of “racial democracy” across time and space in American history. A racial democracy (a variation of Pierre van den Berghe’s concept “Herrenvolk democracy” and David Roediger’s adaptation “Herrenvolk republicanism”) is one that applies the laws that govern legal and political rights on the basis of race rather than universal and egalitarian civic ideals.

Prospective candidates are invited to develop a “pre-proposal,” or preliminary research proposal (roughly one page), that connects with the general theme of racial democracy. All relevant proposals will be considered, but particular preference will be given to proposals that fit within the following three areas of investigation:

  • Racial democracy and black freedom in the antebellum period
  • The failure of civic democracy in the segregated South
  • Race and democracy in the age of empire

The project will provide 3 full PhD scholarships (for contractpromovendi) at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies (RIAS) in Middelburg, a young and dynamic research institute dedicated to the study of the United States and transatlantic relations in the Netherlands. The RIAS is formally affiliated with Leiden University. The PhD candidates will be based at the RIAS, but will be registered as contractpromovendi at Leiden University’s Graduate School of the Faculty of Humanities and will defend their dissertations at Leiden University. As such they will be incorporated into the PhD program at the Institute for History. The project will be directly supervised by Prof. Dr. Damian Pargas, who is a professor of North American history at Leiden University as well as executive director of the RIAS.

We offer:

  • A full scholarship for 4 years, with a stop/go evaluation at the end of the first year. (Each scholarship will amount to roughly €2.200 gross per month.)
  • Office space and access to RIAS archival collections
  • A small annual travel fund for research trips and conference participation
  • Individual supervision and collective PhD training at both the RIAS and Leiden University, one of the best-ranked universities for humanities in Europe
  • The opportunity to be closely involved in RIAS activities, including conferences and seminars


  • Writing a PhD dissertation in English within 4 years 
  • Actively participating in the RIAS PhD program, including attending and co-organizing seminars and conferences
  • Actively helping and participating in RIAS activities, both academic events and public outreach
  • Participating in the Leiden University Graduate Program for PhDs and fulfilling the university’s requirements for obtaining a PhD []
  • Submitting research results for publication in international peer-reviewed academic journals
  • Presenting papers at conferences and workshops 


  • MA degree in History, North American Studies, or related discipline 
  • Thorough knowledge and understanding of American history and relevant academic debates
  • Fluency in English (spoken and written)
  • Experience in working with American source material
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team

NB: The scholarship conditions require that candidates must be from an EU member state or have legal residence in the Netherlands. Candidates are expected to be based at the RIAS.

Application Procedure:

Applications should be submitted in English and should include: 

  • A cover letter stating your motivation for this scholarship
  • A curriculum vitae
  • A “pre-proposal” or preliminary research proposal (max. 1 page) that broadly outlines your project, how it connects to the general theme of racial democracy, and how it may draw from RIAS archival sources
  • Your MA grade transcript
  • A copy of your MA thesis (in PDF)
  • The contact information of two references (including telephone numbers and emails). References will be contacted directly by the search committee.

The above documents should be submitted in PDF format to before 15 September 2020. Please include in the subject heading “Racial Democracy PhD.”  Interviews (either in person or via Skype) will be held in October.

For questions or more information please contact Prof. Dr. Damian Pargas (