Call for Applications: Fully-Funded PhD in project "Democracy in East Central European Utopianism"

Ivana Mihaela Žimbrek's picture
February 1, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Eastern Europe History / Studies, Intellectual History, Modern European History / Studies, Graduate Studies, Political History / Studies

Call for Applications:

Fully-Funded PhD Position

at Central European University, Vienna


Democracy as a Utopia

in the Thematic Area of:

Democracy in East Central European Utopianism


Central European University invites applications for a fully-funded PhD position starting in the 2022/2023 academic year in the Gerda Henkel research program Democracy in East Central European Utopianism hosted by the Democracy Institute (Budapest) of Central European University.


The PhD Scheme

While being a research affiliate of the CEU Democracy Institute, the researcher will pursue a PhD in Comparative History or Political Science and will be funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s AZ 01/DE/21 Grant. The PhD will be co-supervised by a CEU faculty member and the project’s Principal Investigator Professor Zsolt Czigányik.

Duration and Funding: the selected applicant will receive a monthly living allowance of 1600 EUR together with an overseas allowance of 400 EUR per month for the duration of 36 months, with access to additional research funds covered by the Gerda Henkel project.

Location: Central European University, Vienna, Austria (for course work and other relevant graduation requirements); Democracy Institute, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

Application Process

Interested candidates are invited to the PhD in Comparative History or Political Science. In addition to meeting the general CEU admissions requirements, applicants should submit letters of recommendation from three professors familiar with their post-graduate work, a three-page research proposal, as well as a motivation letter (200-400 words) indicating that they are applying for the ‘Democracy in East Central European Utopianism’ research scheme funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

The topic of the proposal should fall within the broad thematic focus of the program as described below, and should address issues of method and substance, as well as previous work done in the field, in appropriate detail. Applications are welcome from candidates with a Master's degree that includes a Master's thesis.

Applicants can apply here.

Application deadline: February 1, 2022 (23:59, Central European Time)

For more information on the application process, see here.

For more information on the thematic area contact Professor Zsolt Czigányik at cziganyik.zsolt@btk.elte.h

Applicant Profile

The ‘Democracy in East Central European Utopianism’ research project is seeking to appoint a PhD student to carry out research in this program. The ideal candidate is a person holding an MA in either history or political science, preferably with a demonstrable knowledge in the history or politics of modern East Central Europe. An affinity to the analysis of literary texts is an advantage, as well as an interest (and preferably experience) in analysing utopian and other political texts. The knowledge of English and an East Central European language (other than Hungarian) is a necessity, Latin is an advantage. The ideal candidate has knowledge and interest in the 19-20th century history of political thought or political ideologies in Europe, preferably in East Central Europe. The PhD research proposal will need to correspond to the current project. The appointee will hold the position of a doctoral student, and will join an interdisciplinary research team that investigates 19th and 20th century East Central European utopian literature.



The project aims at the analysis of 19th and 20th century East Central European utopian texts, focusing on the problems and conflicts utopianism highlights concerning the ideals of democracy. We shall contrast such ideals with historical movements to trace the intellectual history of democracy within utopianism.

Political concepts originating in Western Europe often become adapted and reinterpreted in Central Europe, this is why most Central European texts, unlike the ones produced in Western Europe, treat democracy as a utopian concept, something to be achieved. The research focus is not on individual texts or their authors, but how the texts reflect the historical context and conflicts concerning ideas of good government in East Central Europe. Further, how these conflicts reflect attitudes towards democracy in the region, particularly in comparison and contrast to Western Europe, will be central to the study.

Based on Sargent (1994) the project considers utopias as ideas of a better society, not necessarily perfect, but intended to be ideal, at least significantly better than the current society of the author. Although the investigation focuses on texts and their relationship to historical and political movements and conflicts, all three faces of utopianism will be reflected, that is, literary texts, the utopian elements of political ideologies and to some extent intentional communities as well. Dystopias will also be considered as parts of the utopian discourse.

There are great variations in the definition of Central Europe, the research will consider it not only as physical space but also a virtual (quasi-utopian) area marked by an awareness of and a longing for “democracy,” as a liminal territory in between East and West, showing signs of both Eastern and Western patterns of power relationship, a hybrid between democracy and dictatorship. It is assumed that the investigation of Central European texts and attitudes sheds light not only on the political thought of Central Europe, but also on the ideas concerning democracy both in Western and Eastern European political thought.



The Researcher will be a doctoral student of the Central European University in the department of History (or Political Science), and will be co-supervised and managed by the lead scholar, Dr. Zsolt Czigányik. The post-holder will receive guidance and support from members of the research team.

The Doctoral Researcher will be expected to:

  • Effect research in full compliance of ethics, data and best-practice research guidelines valid at Central European University and the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and will be supported to do so
  • Fulfil the degree requirements of a PhD in Comparative History or Political Science at CEU, including coursework and exams in the first year of the program and the completion of the doctoral dissertation by the end of the project.
  • Collaborate effectively within the research group
  • Develop and deliver high-quality, innovative research outcomes on the subject of the research described above, including, but not limited to, the following activities:
    • As part of your research process, to participate in and convene workshops, seminars, conferences, training sessions and other collaborative events with a range of participants
    • Participation in the organisation of workshops of the research team
    • Produce research publications for leading international and/or peer reviewed journals
    • Produce book chapters for project-specific publications, including edited volumes
    • Participate in conferences of appropriate learned societies and associations
    • Produce research dissemination materials (blog, podcast, etc.) for the project’s public facing website and social media, as well as other channels
    • Perform editorial and critique tasks as appropriate to support other team members and the publications of the research team
    • Work with the lead scholar to ensure that he has the information and materials he needs to effect the smooth running of project
    • Other tasks as agreed with the lead scholar
  • Work closely with the other members of the research team to assist in research and outcome delivery
  • Travel, including international travel, where necessary and appropriate



The post-holder will be working in an international, interdisciplinary context in which a range of disparate methodologies will be operative concurrently. It will be important that the literary, historical and political aspects of the texts and other research material or phenomena be taken into consideration simultaneously. It will be essential for the post-holder to maintain dignity, respect, intellectual rigour in all research activities and dealings with the various actors s/he will engage with and encounter in the project.

Central European University is a graduate institution of advanced research and teaching, dedicated to socially and morally responsible intellectual inquiry. CEU’s distinctive educational program builds on the research tradition of the great American universities; on the most valuable Central European intellectual traditions; on the international diversity of its faculty and students; on its commitment to social service; and on its own history of academic and policy achievements in transforming the closed communist inheritance. CEU is committed to promoting the values of open society and self-reflective critical thinking. It aims at excellence in the mastery of established knowledge, courage to pursue the creation of new knowledge in the humanities, the social sciences, law and management, and engagement in promoting applications for each, in particular through their policy implications. CEU is a new model for international education, a center for study of contemporary economic, social and political challenges, and a source of support for building open and democratic societies that respect human rights and human dignity.



Contact Info: 

Prof. Zsolt Czigányik