Home / News / PhD Studentship in Social Anthropology & Modern History

 


The project “Esperanto 4.0: Millennials and the global Esperanto movement in historical and anthropological perspective” invites applications for one PhD studentship, for applicants to start at the University of St Andrews in September 2019. The student will examine the current resurging interest in the artificial and neutral language Esperanto among millennial Esperanto speakers and activists in an anthropological-historical perspective.

The project seeks to address – among others – the following questions:

  • To what extent are current Esperanto-speakers driven by similar or different agendas and ideals as previous generations of Esperanto-speakers?
  • To what extent are current speakers aware of the historical origins and the legacy of the language and the broader movement?
  • How do millennials interact within the wider Esperanto community in comparison to previous generations (travel, congresses, local and national societies, media and online forums)?
  • To Millennial Esperantists, what are the limits and potentials to revive the movement within the current social, economic, political, and cultural climate?

For further information on the project, see www.transnationalhistory.net

The main focus of the project is to conduct ethnographic fieldwork, in form of meetings, informal and informal interviews and oral history, regarding Millennial Esperantists. The successful candidate will find a highly stimulating research environment and joint supervision from Social Anthropology and History. The studentship allows for the development of a flexible and independent interdisciplinary project around today’s Esperanto community in a historical perspective. While the project is a free-standing PhD project it will be embedded into a wider project on “Esperanto & Internationalism, c. 1880s-1930” (Dr Bernhard Struck, School of History).

We are looking for a PhD candidate trained in Social Anthropology or History. This could include someone with a joint degree or someone with a Masters and Undergraduate degrees in the disciplines. Applicants should have completed a taught-postgraduate degree (or equivalent) with a good Masters degree by September 2019. It is expected that the student will know or be willing to learn Esperanto. The studentship is funded through the St Leonard’s College Interdisciplinary Doctoral Scholarships Scheme at the University of St Andrews. The scholarships comprise a full-fee waiver and stipend for the normal full-fee paying period. The stipend will be paid at the current Research Council rate (£14,777 in 2018-19). The scholarship may be awarded to a UK/EU or international applicant.

Applicants should apply for a PhD place via the University of St Andrews standard application process: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/research/. In addition, they should submit a research outline of a maximum of 500 words directly to Professor Mark Harris (mh25@st-andrews.ac.uk) and Dr Bernhard Struck (bs50@st-andrews.ac.uk).

The deadline for applications is 5pm on 25 May 2019.

The Project

Esperanto 4.0: Millennials and the global Esperanto movement in historical and anthropological perspective

Esperanto, the auxiliary and neutral language, is back. Historically and still today, it has been and still is a reflection of crisis. Over the past few years headlines in Europe and elsewhere have been dominated by the sovereign debt crisis across Southern Europe, the Eurozone crisis, migration, and Brexit. As a result, populism has risen. Elsewhere, “America first” and the prospect of building a wall on the US-Mexico border dominate headlines in times of Trumpism. For some nationalism, protectionism, unilateralism, and nationalist politics seem to be the antidote against economic global interconnectedness, migration, war, and crisis. Yet underneath dominant media headlines, young people in particular find Esperanto as a means to counter these trends. To them, Esperanto is a means to counter nationalism, inward-looking politics, and mechanisms of social and political exclusion.

As these barriers to cultural understanding increase, so too are they being undermined. Today’s millennials, the key research focus of this project, are the first generation that can be described as having grown up in a digital and in many ways unprecedented interconnected world, economically, socially, in terms of communication and media. Interestingly, and under-researched, a significant number of them have found and revived Esperanto. They flock to summer programmes. They learn the artificial and neutral language online via “Duolingo”, lernu.net, and connect via social media across the globe. They join local clubs and attend international Esperanto conventions. They embrace key ideas behind Esperanto: humanism, cross-cultural understanding, sharing ideas for a peaceful future, based on Esperanto as a neutral common ground for communication. Numbers are hard to pin down and little to no research has been done on this latest Esperanto revival

This innovative and original cross-disciplinary project is the first of its kind: researching and understanding the motives and rational shared by Millennial Esperanto speakers in a historical and anthropological perspective. The questions that will guide the research are the following:

  • To what extent are current Esperanto-speakers driven by similar or different agendas and ideals as previous generations of Esperanto-speakers?
  • To what extent are current speakers aware of the historical origins and the legacy of the language and the broader movement?
  • How do millennials interact within the wider Esperanto community in comparison to previous generations (travel, congresses, local and national societies, media and online forums)?
  • To Millennial Esperantists, what are the limits and potentials to revive the movement within the current social, economic, political, and cultural climate?

The main focus of the project is to conduct ethnographic fieldwork, in form of meetings, informal and informal interviews and oral history, regarding Millennial Esperantists. While the focus is on the current resurgent interest in Esperanto and the wider movement, we envision the project to be underpinned by historical questions and an awareness of the history of the movement, past and present motives and rationale for people to learn the language and join the movement. We expect the focus on Millennnial Esperantists to be informed and partially driven by diachronic comparisons with earlier generations of Esperanto activists (see historical background below). While it is obvious that the early generations of Esperantists (c.1880s-1930) were driven by an agenda of transnational activism and internationalism, this may (or may not) be the case with the millennial generation.

We are looking for a PhD candidate trained in Social Anthropology or History. This could include someone with a joint degree or someone with a Masters and Undergraduate degrees in the disciplines. In order to conduct fieldwork English and Esperanto will be needed (yet the latter can be learned during an early phase).