Postdoc: Research Fellow in Social Anthropology: Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good in Africa

University of Oslo

Job description

Applications are invited for a full-time, three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Health and Society as part of a comparative anthropological project, “Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good in Africa: Ethnographic Explorations”. The position is part of a new European Research Council-funded project (Starting Grant) led by Ruth Prince at the University of Oslo. Starting date 1st September 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.

“Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good in Africa” (UNIVERSAL HEALTH) is a theoretically ambitious, comparatively driven anthropological project that will critically explore moves towards Universal Health Coverage in three African countries. Tracking the frictions surrounding UHC at the levels of policy-making, implementation, among beneficiaries, and in public debate, the project will use ethnographic methodology in innovative ways through fieldwork that is multi-sited and multi-level.

Defined by the WHO as ensuring that all people can use the health services they need without financial hardship, Universal Health Coverage is a powerful concept that approaches public health as a matter of justice and obligation and is included in the Sustainable Development Goals. UHC is particularly important in Africa, where structural-adjustment policies undermined state capacity, promoted privatization and pushed the burden of payment onto the poor. Recent global health initiatives have done little to address the neglect of national health-care systems and citizens’ lack of trust in them. In these contexts, UHC is interesting because it reinserts questions of state responsibility and the public good into health-care. Historically however, African states have only partially pursued the public good, while in practice UHC is surrounded by conflicting interests. UHC involves struggles to formalize social protection at the same time as health-care is increasingly being privatized. While appearing to return to key post-war values concerning health for all, UHC takes shape in a very different world and it can serve very different social and political agendas. UHC is not a universal model but a contested field.  Current moves towards UHC thus present interesting sites for exploring issues of redistribution, inequality and solidarity, as well as the social and political collectives forming around struggles for health-care and social protection in Africa.

This project will employ ethnographic research to critically examine experiments with new forms of welfare and social protection on the African continent. Key questions are how moves towards UHC engage relations between states and citizens and universal concepts such as the public good; how UHC intersects with formal systems of social protection; and how it influences informal social networks that support health and livelihoods.

More about the position

The appointment is a fulltime position and is made for a period of  three years. The main purpose of the fellowship is to qualify researchers for work in higher academic positions within their disciplines. The postdoctoral fellow will be expected to submit a project description as part of the application (see below). Potential candidates are welcome to contact Dr Ruth Prince for an informal discussion about possible topics.

The postdoctoral fellow will be part of a team of anthropologists who will together develop innovative, multi-sited ethnographies of social protection, welfare, the state and citizenship in Africa. Project development will be flexible and open within this exciting new field. The country or countries chosen will be based on the applicant’s earlier research profile, networks and interests but should also offer a fit with the project’s comparative focus. The successful candidate will be expected to carry out 8-12 months of in-depth ethnographic research in an African country, and to participate fully in the project’s activities. These will include attending regular reading/discussion groups, organising a workshop and conference, and carrying out outreach and other public engagement activities. You will also have the opportunity to author and co-author open access publications based on your research during the life of the project (2018-2022).

Qualification requirements

  • Applicants must hold a degree equivalent to a Norwegian doctoral degree, in Anthropology or a closely related discipline. The doctoral dissertation must be submitted for evaluation by the closing date. Appointment is dependent on the public defence of the doctoral thesis being approved.
  • Fluent oral and written communication skills in English.
  • Research experience in sub-Saharan Africa will be an advantage.
  • You must be able to engage critically and creatively with relevant theoretical and conceptual frameworks within anthropology, as well as related fields relevant to the project.
  • Demonstrated ability to publish high quality research is not a requirement, but will be an advantage.

Personal skills

  • You should be highly motivated, able to work independently and as part of a team, and have excellent written and verbal communication skills, including the ability to work with a diverse range of individuals and organisations.

We offer

  • salary NOK 490 900 – 569 000 per annum depending on qualifications in position as Postdoctoral Research Fellow (position code 1352)
  • funds for research, travel, conference participation and dissemination, books and equipment
  • academically stimulating working environment including the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary environment
  • attractive welfare benefits and a generous pension agreement, in addition to Oslo’s family-friendly environment with its rich opportunities for culture and outdoor activities

How to apply

The application must include

  • cover letter (statement of motivation, summarizing scientific work and research interest)
  • project description/research proposal, detailing how the candidate would carry out an anthropological study relevant to the research focus of the "Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good" project. The proposal should include methodological strategies, theory and possible theoretical developments, and relevant literature (maximum 3000 words).
  • CV (summarizing education, positions, pedagogical experience, administrative experience and other qualifying activity)
  • copies of educational certificates (academic transcripts only)
  • a complete list of publications
  • Examples of 2 written works that the applicant wishes to be considered by the evaluation committee.
  • Names and contact details of 2-3 academic referees (including relation to candidate, email and phone details)

The application with attachments must be delivered in our electronic recruiting system. International applicants are advised to attach an explanation of their University's grading system. Please note that all documents should be in English (or a Scandinavian language).

In assessing the applications, special emphasis will be placed on the documented, academic qualifications, the project description, and the quality of the project as well as the candidates motivation and personal suitability. Interviews with the best qualified candidates will be arranged, either in person in Oslo or via Skype.
It is expected that the successful candidate will be able to complete the project in the course of the period of employment.

Formal regulations

Please see the guidelines and regulations for appointments to Postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Oslo.

No one can be appointed for more than one specified period at the same institution.

According to the Norwegian Freedom and Information Act (Offentleglova) information about the applicant may be included in the public applicant list, also in cases where the applicant has requested non-disclosure.

The University of Oslo has an agreement for all employees, aiming to secure rights to research results etc.
The University of Oslo is an equal opportunity employer and strives for diversity.

Contact information

Questions regarding the project and position: Associate Professor Dr Ruth Jane Prince


Practical information regarding the application process: HR Advisor Marie Cecilie Bakken

Phone number: 22 85 05 08


Further information:Job announcement