Funding/Jun 21, 2018

Research Associate - Stories of Survival, Oxford

Research Associate - Stories of Survival, Oxford lead image

Stories of Survival is a major five-year research project funded by a €1.5 million European Research Council Starting Grant (2015-20), directed by Dr John-Paul Ghobrial, and based at the University of Oxford. The project is investigating the history of Eastern Christianity in the early modern period, ca. 16th-18th centuries. From Lebanese immigrants in Argentina to Iraqi refugees in Sweden, Eastern Christians can be found today scattered across the entire world. Too often, however, this global migration has been seen purely as a modern development, one arising from contemporary political and confessional events in the Middle East, while in fact this phenomenon had its roots in the early modern period. From the sixteenth century onwards, Christians from the Ottoman Empire set out for distant worlds and foreign lands, travelling as far as Europe, India, Russia, and even the Americas and leaving traces of themselves in countless European and Middle Eastern archives, chanceries, and libraries. This transnational project will gather all of these disparate sources into a single analytical frame to uncover, for the first time, the global and connected histories of Eastern Christianity in the early modern world.

The Stories of Survival project is producing a new religious and social history of Eastern Christianity in a global context. In doing so, it seeks to recover the role of Christians at the heart of Middle Eastern history. Through the work of a team of researchers under the close supervision of Dr Ghobrial as Principal Investigator, the project is reconstituting and analysing a ‘lost archive’ of literary,  documentary, and printed sources in three continents, ten languages, and dozens of archives. In doing so, this project will also respond directly to one of the most pressing conceptual challenges facing global history today, that is, how to link the study of the micro-scale level of everyday life to the macro- narratives emphasised by global historians. Underlying this project, therefore, is a major intervention that seeks to advance a rigorous form of global history, and one which preserves philology and source criticism at the heart of its methodology. The project team is pursuing a robust strategy for dissemination aimed at the fields of Middle Eastern, European, and global history. The outcomes of this project will include print-publications, workshops, a website, and a searchable database of all writings  by Eastern Christians in Arabic and Syriac from 1500 to 1750.

The project already employs three post-doctoral Research Associates working on Arabic, Syriac, and European-language sources related to Eastern Christianity, in addition to the one-year posts advertised here. The team works in close collaboration, meeting regularly in a Project Seminar and team  workshops to share findings, discuss sources, and collaborate for purposes of research dissemination. The team will present its research and represent Oxford at conferences around the world.

The Faculty of History, University of Oxford, is seeking to appoint up to three postdoctoral researchers from 1 October 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter to work on the ERC-funded project ‘Stories of Survival: Recovering the Connected Histories of Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World’. The appointees will work as part of a larger team of post-doctoral researchers reporting to the Principal Investigator, Dr John-Paul Ghobrial. The two postholders will have responsibility for cataloguing and researching material in Arabic and/or Syriac to contribute to the project’s work on creating a database of all Christian Arabic and Syriac manuscripts from 1500 to 1750.

Each postholder will have responsibility for cataloguing and researching a specific set of Arabic and/or Syriac manuscripts. Working with manuscript catalogues (published and online), the postholders will play an essential role in contributing information to a database of Eastern Christian manuscripts produced from 1500 to 1750. Alongside the database, each postholder will be encouraged to produce a single-authored article on some major aspect(s) of Eastern Christianity in the early modern period in consultation with, and under the supervision of, Dr Ghobrial. In addition, postholders may be commissioned to prepare articles, blog posts, and other short publications on specific topics of relevance to the project. All members of the project team will be expected to attend and contribute to the Project Seminar, team workshops, related events, and to present and represent the project at international conferences.



  • A doctorate in a relevant field (e.g. History, Oriental Studies), or evidence that a doctorate is imminently expected;
  • Excellent knowledge of Arabic and/or Syriac, and spoken and written English;
  • Ability and willingness to systematically collect, and input, all the available data related to Arabic and/or Syriac manuscripts in this period;
  • Ability and willingness to work as part of a team, share insights and findings, and engage in collaborative, collective and experimental forms of research and publication;
  • Ability and willingness to develop a detailed knowledge of the historical context of Eastern Christianity and/or the Middle East in this period;
  • Excellent communication skills, including the ability to write for publication, present research proposals and results, and to represent Oxford and the project at meetings;
  • Ability to conduct, with only light supervision, autonomous academic research and associated activities;
  • Ability to write to a deadline.


  • Ability and ambition to produce a single-authored publication that reflects both the subject and methodologies of the project;
  • Knowledge of one or more relevant fields (e.g. Eastern Christian Studies, Islamic Studies, early modern European history, global history);
  • Knowledge of relevant research languages (e.g. German, Turkish, Armenian, Italian, Latin, Spanish, French);
  • Experience of working with databases;
  • Experience of working on a collaborative project;
  • Experience of working specifically with manuscript material;
  • Experience of independently managing a discrete area of a research project;
  • Experience of public engagement around historical research.

Vacancy ID: 135347