Post-doc positions: Chinese Modernity and Soft Power on the Belt and Road; Religion and the BRI

David A Palmer's picture

Postdoctoral Fellow / Senior Research Assistant posts at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong

Official advertisement:

Application deadline: Dec. 15, 2021.

Applications are invited for appointment as Post-doctoral Fellow/Senior Research Assistant (two posts) in the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (Ref.: 508546), to commence on September 1, 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter for one year, with the possibility of renewal subject to satisfactory performance and funding availability.

The Institute was established in 2001 with a mission to promote innovative, cross-disciplinary scholarship with a focus on China and Asia.  More information about the Institute can be viewed at

Applicants should possess a Ph.D. degree in Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Human Geography, Religious Studies, Political Science, Sociology, or a related discipline. Outstanding applicants in the final stages of Ph.D. studies may also be considered for initial appointment as Senior Research Assistant.  Applicants should have field research experience on local entanglements and connections, preferably including those of a religious nature, between China and one or more countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The appointees will work on the projects “Chinese Modernity and Soft Power on the Belt and Road” and/or “Infrastructures of Faith: Religious Mobilities on the Belt and Road” led by Professor David A. Palmer.  They will be expected to research and prepare publications based on their research on the relevant topic; and to contribute to the organization of academic activities and research of the Asian Religious Connections research cluster of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (see  For further enquiries about the posts and the projects, please contact Professor David A. Palmer by email to

A highly competitive salary commensurate with qualifications and experience will be offered, in addition to annual leave and medical benefits.

The University only accepts online applications for the above posts. Please use this link to apply:

Applicants should apply online and upload an up-to-date CV, a one-page statement of research interests aligned with the project(s) described below, and a sample publication or dissertation chapter.   Review of applications will start on November 15, 2021 and continue until December 15, 2021, or until the posts are filled, whichever is earlier.

Information on the projects:

The posts will be for project no. 1 (BRINSOFT) described below, and proposals should be able to fit within the remit of this project. Applicants with no experience in ethnographic research and whose proposal does not fit the description need not apply.

Proposals that can also connect with project no. 2 (BRINFAITH) are especially welcome, but this is not a requirement for applicants.

1.     Chinese Modernity and Soft Power on the Belt and Road (BRINSOFT)

RGC Fellowship Scheme – David A. Palmer, PI

This project will assess the nature and dynamics of Chinese soft power in the context of the BRI, by using ethnographic methods to identify the factors which, in local contexts, enhance or restrain the socio-cultural influence of “Chinese modernity.” The project’s ethnographic and qualitative methodology will shift the focus of research away from the abstract and general tenor of most studies on Chinese soft power, to the lived experience, perceptions and transformations of people in specific local communities. Ethnographic, field-based case studies will investigate the dynamic interaction between Chinese modernity and local cultures and societies, in the context of either (1) formal Chinese Soft Power (CSP) strategies and programmes including scholarships, language and culture programmes, humanitarian projects, media presence; or (2) other significant localized cultural interactions between Chinese BRI-related actors and local communities. The project team will conduct case studies located in different countries of the Asia-Pacific or Africa, covering a representative geographic range of countries. The empirical case studies will contribute to theory building in anthropology, sociology, political science and international relations: developing the theorization of “multiple modernities” through the conceptualization of “Chinese modernity” in its dynamic relations with non-Chinese, non-Western societies; and enriching theories of soft power and Chinese geopolitics through insights from the empirical cases.

2.         Infrastructures of Faith: Religious Mobility on the Belt and Road (BRINFAITH).

Collaborative Research Fund – David A. Palmer, Project Coordinator

This project will investigate the following research question: what is the religious impact of China’s intensification of ties and infrastructures linking it to the rest of Asia, now subsumed under the label of the “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”? An unintentional effect of the BRI is to facilitate and intensify religious circulations between the nations of Eurasia. Religion is central to the culture and national identity of most BRI and adjacent countries, and, often, their political system and ideology as well. The project will form an international, interdisciplinary team of scholars in anthropology, geography, sociology, history, political science and religious studies, who will conduct workshops and case studies on transnational religious circulations between China and Asian countries relating to Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religion and new religious movements, that will be situated within broader historical and geopolitical contexts. For detailed information on the project, see