Postdoctoral Fellowship at Aarhus University: "Digressions: A cross-disciplinary study of the indirectness of the human imagination"

The research project “Digressions: A cross-disciplinary study of the indirectness of the human imagination” at the Department of Anthropology, School of Culture and Society, Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University invites applications for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship. The appointment begins on 1 September 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The position

The position is affiliated with the AUFF NOVA research project “Digressions: A cross-disciplinary study of the indirectness of the human imagination”. Based on an understanding of digressions as a series of consecutive departures from an onward course of social life, the research project aims at testing two key hypotheses: (1) Social life involves ways of being and acting that are indirect and non-linear; life proceeds not along straight lines but by virtue of diversions; events occur by causal routes that are more tangential than direct. (2) It is through such diversions, indirectness and tangents, nevertheless, that social life maintains the appearance of being a linear phenomenon so that B appears to be following A ‘logically’.

Key to the project is a focus on the human imagination. This is understood not only as a primary vehicle for creativity and novelty, but also for the apparently non-imaginative practices of everyday life. Significantly, the habits that structure the mundane actually entail series of imaginative departures from apparently straightforward courses of action. Situated in always-shifting social environments, humans constantly recalibrate their perception by reacting to the imaginative possibilities afforded by what lies beyond the immediately given, which often resists total articulation. As such, the human imagination is a driving force that potentially transcends the phenomenologically given parameters of social life.

The concept of ‘digression’ has a long history spanning antique rhetoric to modern literary theory and narratology. With this project, however, it is argued that digression is a key aspect of human experience as well as being vital for understanding the process of social life. The objective is thus to document the capacities of digression to affect the habitude of daily life and to demonstrate that digressions are intrinsic to the indirectness of the human imagination. In particular, the project focuses on four genres of digression: fiction, mythology, fine art and comedy. Examining these in the context of daily life, as they are imaginatively put into practice, makes visible our deployment of (and even our dependence on) digression.


We are looking for an innovative scholar with a background in anthropology, area studies, cultural studies, folklore studies, literary studies or related disciplines who can contribute to this project and who can demonstrate international commitment and ability to collaborate with key areas of national and international research within the research area of the project. The postdoctoral fellow is expected to participate in research-based project activities as well as lectures, seminars and workshops and also in supervising students.

The successful applicant will have an individual research project relevant for the AUFF NOVA research project. The postdoctoral fellow will also be expected to work collaboratively with the project team and engage actively in interdisciplinary team research. The application should contain a research proposal for the postdoctoral fellowship, highlighting how the project will complement the research agenda of the AUFF NOVA research project.


The position will involve some teaching as agreed upon with the department head and the director of the AUFF NOVA research project.

Knowledge exchange

The postdoctoral fellow will be expected to exchange knowledge with various sectors of society and to contribute actively to the general public debate in areas related to the position.


Eligible applicants for this position should hold a PhD degree or equivalent qualifications in anthropology, area studies, cultural studies, folklore studies or allied fields.

The successful applicant must document extensive empirical research, preferably including ethnographic fieldwork and/or archival experience as well as an international research profile.

Applicants should be interested in collaborative, interdisciplinary work and must formulate a concise description of their proposed research project (up to 4 double-spaced A4 pages), a project whose completion should be feasible within the time frame of the position.

The application must be submitted in English. If the successful applicant does not speak Danish, he/she will be expected to learn sufficient Danish to participate in the daily business of the department within two years.

Work environment

The research project “Digressions: A cross-disciplinary study of the indirectness of the human imagination” is funded by the Aarhus University Research Foundation NOVA and focuses on digression as something which is vital for understanding the human imagination. The project is headed by associate professor Morten Nielsen and runs from September 2016 to August 2018.

The School of Culture and Society

‘Digressions’ is an AUFF-funded research project in the School of Culture and Society at Aarhus University. The focus of the teaching and research activities of the school is the interplay between culture and society in time and space:

  • from the traditional disciplines of the humanities and theology to applied social research
  • from antiquity to the issues facing contemporary societies
  • from familiar Danish cultural forms to other – and very different – worlds
  • from local questions to global challenges.
Application date
2 Feb 2016
Date of residence
1 Sep 2016
2 years
Europe Denmark
Humanities Anthropology, Ethnology and Folklore Archaeology Architecture Art & Art History Classical Studies Digital Humanities History Linguistics Literature Media Studies Music & Musicology Philosophy Religion & Theology
Required post-doc experience: 
between 0 and 5 years
Grants available