Culture and Development

The PhD programme Culture and Development is concerned with human difference and its consequences in different societies.

Brief outline of the programme

Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology together teach the discipline required for the study of human differences in space (“race”; “culture”) as well as time (“development”). They are therefore uniquely located between the humanities and the social sciences.

Our Institute’s PhD programme combines these emphases in its commitment to ethnographic research, with, on the one hand, a marked emphasis on language- and/or history-based studies, and on the other, social science methodology (including the practice of quantitative approaches).

Most broadly, the Institutional research programme concentrates on the intensive, localized study of human differences in a world in motion, where global connections are differentially reproduced from place to place. Specifically, the research profile of the Institute highlights visual anthropology and the study of media, performance and material culture; the historical ethnography of social policy, social movements and global religion; and the anthropology of landscape, environmental studies and urban development.

Additional research

Research is the core of the PhD programme with students conducting original research leading to a dissertation under the guidance of one or more supervisors. Although the primary emphasis is on the skillful and timely execution of the original research plan, PhD candidates may also be asked to join staff members in additional projects, which may include:

  • conference organization,
  • the further elaboration of the Institute’s research profile and plans for attracting funding,
  • exhibitions or publications
  • and other forms of disseminating the results of research.

In all of this the supervisor(s) of the PhD candidate oversee the educational content of these activities and make sure that the candidate is not unnecessarily distracted from the actual work of research and writing the dissertation.

Admission requirements

A prospective PhD candidate in this field should have:

  1. a strong background in social science methodology;
  2. experience with conceptualizing and implementing a research project;
  3. knowledge of the contemporary social science literature as it pertains to cultural anthropology and development sociology;
  4. strong writing skills;
  5. and the commitment required for prolonged ethnographic fieldwork.


Two professors at the institute have the 'ius promovendi' (the right to act as a PhD supervisor). Their research specialisations can be summarised as follows:

Peter Pels:
  • ethics
  • religion and magic
  • new media
  • material culture
  • political anthropology
  • history of anthropology
  • Africa
  • Europe
Gerard Persoon:
  • environment and development
  • role of indigenous peoples in natural resource management

Associate and assistant professors who belong to the institute may co-supervise a PhD-project. Research specialisations of the staff not listed above include the anthropology of landscape and technology, environmental anthropology and economic anthropology.

The regional foci of a majority of the institute's members are Africa, South and Southeast Asia; individual regional specializations include certain European and Caribbean countries.