PhD contract with IRIS project at GEODE Laboratory


36-month PhD contract in rural heritage enhancement in the framework of the IRIS project at the GEODE Laboratory (UMR 5602 CNRS – UT2J), Toulouse (France).


Pastoral Community Conserved Areas of the Montenegrin Mountains and Socio-Ecological Heritage enhancement.


This PhD call is part of a wider European project titled: “Inspiring rural heritage: sustainable practices to protect and conserve upland landscapes and memories (IRIS)”. It emerges around the fact that exists a strong and growing scientific and political awareness that rural commons or Indigenous peoples’ and local Community Conserved Areas and territories (hereafter ICCAs - territories of life) are a crucial living heritage for environmental conservation, local peoples’ well-being and global sustainability, as well as of universal cultural interest. And yet, ICCAs are experiencing swift degradation worldwide. This proposal posits that the public recognition of ICCAs as a living socio-ecological heritage at the local, national and international level, could contribute significantly to their protection. This is, understanding and documenting its present and historical value, and participatorily engaging local communities in communicating this value to key actors (public officers, policy-makers, decision-makers, national and international agencies, etc.) and the wider public (i.e. society as a whole), as this has proved to be a powerful means to strengthen such systems. In order to tackle this, we will focus on Sinjajevina (Dinaric Alps of Montenegro), a territory governed by a number of different rural commons or ICCAs, and which is the most exemplary mountainous pastoral territory in the Balkans and the second largest in Europe, on which an over 7.000 ha military training ground wants to be developed, putting at risk the conservation of these outstanding landscapes and their unique values.

Objectives of the PhD

In this context, ideally, the main overarching goal of this PhD project would be to contribute to the understanding of the Sinjajevina system as a whole and provide a number of key paths for enhancing its rural living heritage to hold public institutions accountable to comply with the various frameworks protecting the environment and local people’s rights and living heritage, that Montenegro has signed or is supposed to align with in order to accede to the EU with which it is in adhesion talks, and that should contribute to the protection of Sinjajevina and other rural similar socio-ecologically rich systems in the country. Aiming at achieving this fundamental overall goal, the Strategic Objectives (SO) will be:

SO1. To holistically understand some key drivers and socio-ecologic consequences of relatively well-functioning pastoral ICCAs versus less functional ICCAs under the threat of this artillery ground contravening the safeguard of environmental heritage sites and local communities’ living traditions.

SO2. To identify the natural and cultural heritage values of the Sinjajevina ICCAs that foster well-being and resilience in local communities and unique ecosystems and that could as a model to other sites in the country.

SO3. To participatorily examine the global risks and opportunities of enhancing such ICCA heritage values, and provide a number of key paths for strengthening local communities and increasing the involvement of civil society actors in policy dialogue with decision-makers about such mountain territories.

Requirements for candidates

This PhD will be presented in English, so it is a must that the candidate is sufficiently proficient in English. At the same time, it would be very valuable that the candidate masters Serbian language and even has links to the region, and it would be a plus if the candidate understood or had basic notions of French. As we will favor a transdisciplinary approach throughout all the IRIS project, the profile of the candidate is wide and the selection process will be open to candidates being able to offer a comprehension of Sinjajevina and the way to face its current crisis from a number of different possible interacting disciplines ranging from Anthropology, Sociology, Human Geography, Landscape planning, Agronomy, Law, History, Archaeology, Economy, Journalism, Communication or Political science among others of the sort. It is compulsory to have a degree at the level of Master or any degree that will allow the candidate’s registration in the UT2J PhD program at the moment of the start of the contract in October 2020. Within the 3 years of this contract, candidates could be asked to pass at least around one year in Montenegro (and better if more) doing fieldwork and working with local communities and relevant actors. It would also be a plus if they could install themselves to live for some time in the villages surrounding Sinjajevina in order to augment their participatory observation and proximity to the commons and different actors concerning this territory. Disposing of a car license and eventually of a car would be also valued.

The candidate would have to carry on fieldwork both alone and in team with at least one other person related to the IRIS project if not more, and therefore a good teamwork spirit is most required, as well as to have a strong moral and political engagement with rural local communities’ enhancement, support and reinforcement. The candidate should be highly adaptable, able to negotiate and refine the work plan as the collective project unfolds, constantly redefining objectives and methods as the field data gathering and the events evolve. Much of the work could be undertaken in public and private archives concerning legal and historical data gathering, as well as in urban or in rural municipalities surrounding Sinjejavina for interviews, participatory observation, but also through bibliographic and internet searches. Nevertheless, since the work concerns Sinjajevina, it would also be important to undertake some of the work in remote mountain areas. Therefore, a good physical condition would be a plus for carrying out interviews with pastoralists and farmers’ families on the grasslands, sometimes under rough weather and passing some nights on the pastoralists mountain settlements. Fieldwork may extend over weekends and will involve some mountain hiking. The candidate must also be accustomed to working on the screen for long periods of time and have very active internet connection, as fast responding will be a must. Fieldwork will be undertaken in Montenegro but the supervisor will be based in France and therefore, for a fluid communication, internet tools, including abundant email and documental exchange, periodic videoconferences, wasaps/viber messaging and telephone calls, will be necessary for a proper follow-up of the works and feed-back.

Conditions and application

We offer a 36-month doctoral contract at the GEODE Laboratory (UMR 5602 CNRS – UT2J) based at the University of Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès, starting on October 1st, 2020. The net salary will be about 1.715€ euros per month with 12 payments per year, even if the exact amount the candidate will receive will be only definitively fixed once all tax declarations are done and which depends only on each candidate’s socio-economic context.

The candidate is expected to be present in Toulouse from 1st October 2020 to sign his/her contract, enroll in the University Jean Jaurés of Toulouse PhD program, meet the different GEODE members involved in the project, follow the initial activities necessary (e.g. a few introductory courses during the first months), and then depart to Montenegro to start fieldwork possibly from early 2021. The PhD thesis will be under the supervision of Pablo Dominguez, the coordinator of the Montenegro works within the IRIS project.

For any questions do not hesitate to write him at Candidates must send to that same email address before August 31st 2020 a motivation letter (no longer than 2 pages or 1.000 words all included) where he/she states how he/she would see him/herself fulfill this project’s objectives + a detailed CV and the contact of one academic that could relate to the topic of this call and that would be willing to provide a recommendation of the candidate.