Doctoral fellowships


  • A PhD dissertation in political sociology should seek to expand the existential, political or social foundations of non-violent action undertaken to further democratic ideal. This action should, in turn, be situated in the context of the tension that underlies the very idea of democracy, between universal rights and cultural specificities. The rights that underpin the democratic ideal are articulated, demanded, and applied within specific cultures. At the same time, these cultures all contain ideas of what it means for humanity to be free from oppression, which is why the democratic ideal appears capable of rising above cultural differences and demands.

The moment these questions cease to be theoretical, they open the door many other issues. For example: when can a nonviolent action be considered “effective?” What is the existential – and even spiritual – dimension of the nonviolent aspiration to democracy, in particular in the context of Buddhism? Does nonviolence exclude all violence? What does political leadership resemble in such a context, and what difficulties does it engender? What representations of democracy emerge from this kind of engagement? What place is there for justice and the law; what place for conflicts and projects? In terms of collective action, what place is there for nationwide social and labor movements, and what constraints are imposed by global geopolitics? More broadly, how are material demands and cultural orientations linked to one another? A doctoral thesis in this field will be funded in the hopes of better comprehending these questions and identifying responses to them, in close dialogue with the situation in Burma. Call for PhD Application in Sociology

  • A doctoral thesis in the field of law/sociology of law should study constitutional transition and the question of the establishment of legal systems: from fact to law. From the perspective of legal theory, constitutional transitions, and in particular those brought about by revolutionary action, raise the question of how to legitimate constitutions and the legal standards they establish – the question of the transition from “is” to “ought to be.”

Kelsen’s investigations into the ultimate test of the validity of a legal system – acts of revolution – describe the extent to which fundamental norms can only be generated, exist, and be defined by empirical questioning; that is, by observing whether a constitution is obeyed and followed – in other words, whether it is respected as a binding text. In a stable political context, the law functions as a closed system, since a norm can be recognized as binding only if the legal process through which it is articulated is accepted as valid. However, as test cases that cause breaches in such systems show, even in purely theoretical contexts, respect for the system is not a sufficient condition for legitimacy; nor can it alone induce citizens to recognize the binding nature of a system’s norms. Ultimately, citizens exercise their moral consciences when they uphold a set of laws, and in this way are responsible for the legal order. Habermas, following Durkheim is therefore correct in asserting that a subject’s obedience to modern law must have a moral component when the political order is linked to a legal system: if the former is unable to assert its legitimacy, the subject can repudiate it. This second thesis will seek responses to some of the many questions raised by these observations. Call for PhD Application in Law