Call for applications: Doctoral fellowships for mobility and sociality in Africa’s emerging urban

The African Centre for Migration & Society at Wits University is seeking applications for up to three doctoral students whose work will support the African Research Universities Alliance’s (ARUA) Mobility and Sociality in Africa’s Emerging Urban research programme. With support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, this initiative is a scholarly response to unprecedented levels of urbanisation and mobility driven by conflict, ambition, and respatialising economies. It is intended to develop African-based contributions to theories of human mobility and transforming modes of social engagement, authority, representation, and expression.

Doctoral fellowship proposals are invited for qualified social science and humanities students dedicated to conducting work that speaks to one or more of the following questions:

  • What cultural practices are being reshaped and reconceptualised by mobile urban residents? What are the practical enacted ethics that enable people to make sense of varied diversities and to communicate and exchange across social divisions? How do people make sense of difference without shared histories or the disciplining institutions of common states, religion, or markets?
  • What new forms of moral authority operate in rapidly urbanising contexts? What are the forms of alternative authority that emerge in contexts where the State is largely absent?
  • How are these changing people’s imagination of traditional hierarchies of age gender and family structure? How are these connected to new notions of morality rooted in age gender and social obligation?
  • How are changing forms of violence legitimated? What becomes visible as violence and what is eclipsed?
  • How does widespread translocalism and ongoing mobility reshape urban morphologies and residential patterns; social interactions; subjective understanding of citizenship; representation and civic identity: what is political society in spaces only loosely structured by states and formal markets?

Expectations and eligibility

This initiative brings together five African universities dedicated to cultivating a generation of African scholars, dedicated to reshaping global social theory and scholarly conversations on mobility, cities, and social change. It promises to open novel scholarly frontiers and enhance pedagogy and partnerships in ways that positively transform the continent’s universities. It is dedicated to fostering interdisciplinarity, engagement with the arts, and creative research and outreach methodologies.

Students may be enrolled in any department within the University of the Witwatersrand’s Faculty of Humanities as long as they retain a co-supervision relationship with the African Centre for Migration & Society.  Successful applications will have completed an appropriate social science or humanities MA or related degree by the start of the fellowship and will have already been accepted into an appropriate department. Special preference will be given to those who have studied or worked with ARUA members or associated universities. These include Addis Ababa University; University of Cape Town; University of Dar es Salaam; Cheikh Anta Diop University; University of Ibadan; University of KwaZulu-Natal; University of Ghana; University of Lagos; Obafemi Awolowo University; Makerere University; University of Nairobi; National University of Rwanda; University of Pretoria; Rhodes University; University of Stellenbosch; University of the Witwatersrand.

Doctoral fellows will receive three years of support during which they will be expected to complete their degree and participate in an exchange programme or collaborative activity with one or more of the project partners. Fellows are expected to enrol as afull time students and participate actively in University life. During their time they will be expected to lead one or more seminars on their work.

Application process

Applications should include:

  • A cover letter summarising past research, qualifications, and reasons for interest in the fellowship.
  • A complete academic CV;
  • A short proposal (1500 word maximum) outlining the proposed project;
  • Contact details for three professional reference letters speaking to the applicant’s ability to complete the proposed project;
  • A writing sample of not more than 15,000 words (e.g., a chapter; article; term paper).

Applications are due midnight, 1 March 2018. Selections will be completed by 1 April 2018 with successful candidates expected to enrol or begin their programme before February 2019. Students already enrolled are also eligible.

Members of historically disadvantaged groups are particularly encouraged to apply.

All queries and application materials must be emailed to: