Studies of Cultures

Our Studies of Cultures is an umbrella PhD study programme covering fields like Cultural Theory, Estonian Literature and Culture, English Literature and Culture, German Literature and Culture, Romance Studies, Russian Literature and Culture, Middle Eastern and Asian Literatures and Cultures, Cultural Geography, Philosophy, and Social and Cultural Anthropology.

Study level PhD studies

Duration of study 4 years

Language Estonian English

We encourage our PhD students to approach their research topics from an interdisciplinary angle and combine comparative literature, theoretical and practical approaches to the mechanisms of culture and other methodological and research approaches.

During their studies the students achieve an in-depth knowledge of contemporary approaches in the humanities and in cultural theory.

The study programme is aimed at all people who are interested in

  • Cultural Theory,
  • Estonian Literature and Culture,
  • English Literature and Culture,
  • German Literature and Culture, Romance Studies,
  • Russian Literature and Culture,
  • Middle Eastern and Asian Literatures and Cultures,
  • Cultural Geography,
  • Philosophy,
  • and Social and Cultural Anthropology.

We are looking for PhD students who wish to pursue academic research in the areas mentioned above and be supervised by our experts in these fields.

Find out more about our PhD students here

In 2023, there will be admitted students for the following topics:

Junior researcher will be employed by the university PhD student is not employed by the university
One PhD junior researcher position (open topic) One PhD student position (open topic)
One PhD junior researcher for Chinese Studies  
One PhD junior researcher for East Slavonic Culture  
Three junior researcher positions will be distributed by the admission board during the admission period  

We also welcome applicants who wish to research Estonian culture, recommended are various aspects of  analyzing or teaching and promoting of Estonian culture. Comparative or cross-cultural perspectives are also welcome.  Candidates are required to have a very good command of the Estonian.

Read more about the thematic positions

Why study with us?

  • The syllabus is flexible and enables each student to organise his/her studies in close cooperation with a supervisor and to choose the optimal training in a given research topic.
  • In addition, the curriculum is aimed at an interdisciplinary approach and increasing the dialogue between the student and the supervisor.
  • In order to obtain international experience, it is possible to participate in conferences, seminars, summer schools and to take courses abroad with the support of the Erasmus programme
  • Many of our supervisors are members of two important research centres: The TU Centre of Excellence in Intercultural Studies and the Centre for Landscape and Culture

Course Outline

Full-time studies

  • PhD studies consist of a course component and a thesis component. Many of the courses are based on individual work and demand close co-operation with the supervisor.
  • Some subject courses and all general courses will have contact meetings. Not all the general courses will be offered in English every year.
  • PhD students must participate in the PhD seminars throughout their studies.
  • The official full-time study period of PhD studies is four years.

Core course components

The core components of the programme are the interdisciplinary research seminars during which each PhD student will have to present a paper at least twice during their studies. Feedback will be provided by both the lecturers and the fellow students. To develop the methodological basis, there is a course on Current Methods in Humanities. PhD students will be able to hone their academic writing and public speaking skills. The cooperation with one's supervisor is of utmost importance when planning the individual and core courses.

Study programme 2022/23

Academic Staff

Daniele Monticelli is the Professor of Italian Studies and Semiotics and Chair of the Doctoral Studies Council of Humanities at Tallinn University. He has studied and researched in Italy, Germany, Estonia, the US and teaches subjects in contemporary Italian history, society and politics, philosophy of language, comparative literature and research seminars. 

His research is characterized by a wide and interdisciplinary range of interests which include the relations between translation and ideology particularly under totalitarian rule and censorship, semiotic theory and poststructuralism, the literary construction of affects, passions and cognition, contemporary critical theory with particular focus on the political thought of Agamben, Badiou and Rancière. He has authored literary and essayistic translations from Estonian into Italian and actively contributes to the cultural and political debate in the Estonian media and society.

Listen to his One Minute Lecture Is Love an Endangered Emotion?

Tõnu Viik is a Professor of Philosophy at Tallinn University, Estonia. He is interested in phenomenology and philosophy of culture. His research is concentrated on phenomenological accounts of meaning-making in everyday life, or cultural phenomenology.  He is especially interested in misleading or deceptive cases of meaning-making such as ideological delusions or self-deception.

More about his research here.

Listen to his paper "Collective Emotions and Populist Politics" (International conference “Angry Times. Populism and Democracy Discontent”, 04 March 2020)

Marek Tamm is the Professor of Cultural History and senior research fellow at the School of Humanities in Tallinn University. He is also Head of Tallinn University Centre of Excellence in Intercultural Studies and of Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts.  Graduated in history and semiotics at the University of Tartu (1998), he earned his master degree in medieval studies from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris (1999) and his doctorate degree in medieval history from Tallinn University (2009). Author of five books, of some seventy scholarly articles published in Estonian, English and French, and editor of dozen collections of articles.

Main research interests: cultural history of medieval Europe, Estonian historical culture, theory and history of historiography, and cultural memory studies.

Anna Verschik is the Professor of General Linguistics at Tallinn University. Her scholarly interests inculude topics like Estonian-Russian language contacts, multilingualism on the internet, sociolinguistics in the Baltic countries, contacts of Yiddish in the Baltic area and sociolinguistic situation of post-Soviet countries in a comparative perspective. She teaches subjects related to her research field.

Main research interests: contact linguistics and multilingualism.

Study Support Facilities

  • Tallinn University is a vibrant study and research centre situated in the capital of Estonia. It is almost in the city centre and easily accessible by public transport. The Tallinn Port, Bus Terminal and Airport are within easy reach. 
  • The School of Humanities is the biggest unit in Tallinn concentrating on teaching and research of Humanities. We are running a number of curricula at BA, MA and PhD level.
  • Our school is interdisciplinary and international, innovative and teamwork-orientated. We welcome both foreign staff and students. We have students from the United States, Nigeria, Ghana, Germany, Spain, Costa Rica, Finland, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia, China, Turkey and many other countries.
  • Due to our Erasmus contacts, our students have excellent opportunities to spend a part of their studies abroad. We also welcome a growing number of incoming Erasmus students every year.
  • All our curricula promote the individual development of every learner, close contacts between students and teaching staff are vitally important.
  • Students can use the services of the libraries of the university and the National Library of Estonia which is located in Tallinn. These institutions offer a wide range of electronic data bases to their users.
  • The Archive of renown semiotician, Juri Lotman is housed at Tallinn University.
  • The PhD studies are supported by the activities of the Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts.
  • Funding: Archimedes

Admission Requirements

  • Completed Master’s degree or the equivalent.
  • Proof of English Proficiency.

Read more here

Admission Requirements

For general requirements, please read admission to PhD Studies here.

Additional admission criteria in 2023

In 2023, there will be admitted:

  • One PhD junior researcher (fully funded)
  • One PhD student (non-funded)
  • One PhD junior researcher for Chinese Studies
  • One PhD junior researcher for East Slavonic Culture
  • Further PhD junior researcher positions will be allocated by the admission board during the admission period.

During the application period (22 May - 29 June) the candidates should upload into the application database:

1) The research proposal that has been expanded and enhanced in cooperation with the prospective supervisor and signed by her/him (length approx. 5 pages / 2500 words without the list of sources), which contains at least the following components:

  • The topic of the research project;
  • The objectives of the research and main research question(s);
  • Overview of methods to be used and/or of main terminology;
  • The overview of the state of the art of the topic;
  • Overview what topic related research the candidate has done prior to application;
  • Overview of the contents of the intended research;
  • Prognosis on the possible primary results of the research;
  • Primary list of the sources and literature to be used in the research;
  • The timeline-schedule of the research (incl. information on research to be conducted abroad, like Erasmus visits to other universities, visiting libraries and archives abroad etc.).

If the research contains fieldwork: the description of the scope, length, and financing (both the projected budget and sources of financing).

The project candidates must also clarify how their topic is related to the project and what activities they will carry out as part of it. For non-project related topics clarification why this research should specifically be carried out at Tallinn University School of Humanities.

2) Expanded vision of the teaching assignments to be carried out during the PhD studies (max. 2 pages). It should give information on courses or course components to be taught, the role of the PhD candidate, and should be accepted by the prospective supervisor. (During the four years of PhD studies the students are expected to assist at least in three courses or seminars and to teach or co-teach at least one course / seminar).

3) CV (including a list of candidate’s publications and full information on IT skills)

4) A proof of English proficiency

Admission exam

The admission exam is an interview that is conducted based on the research proposal and other documents submitted by the candidate. The candidates for junior researcher position are expected to have a very clear idea about the arrangement and length of their PhD studies. The interview take place in July and candidates will be contacted to arrange the exact time.

The assessment criteria

The following aspects will be assessed:

  • The academic competences of the candidate (incl. suitability of prior education, other knowledge and qualifications supporting the research topic, suitability of language skills for the intended research) [max. 35 points]
  • Research project / proposal (incl. topicality and interdisciplinarity, the contents of the research, intended methods, suitability for the profile of the School of Humanities or connection with the project) [max. 35 points]
  • Teaching competences (incl. the candidate’s suitability to teaching at the School of Humanities) [max. 20 points]
  • General motivation to study at PhD level (and to contribute towards a project) [max. 10 points]

The subtotal maximum points a candidate can obtain is 100.

The examination board will assess each candidate individually based on the criteria. Each board member will assess the candidates based on the submitted materials. The board members will discuss the candidates and decide if they should / should not be invited for an interview. During the interview all board members may ask questions. Afterwards there is a discussion among the board members and a shortlist of candidates to be offered a PhD position is created based on the mutual agreement of the board members.

See also the detailed guidelines on application procedure at Tallinn University site.

Thematic Positions

One full-time and funded PhD junior researcher position in Chinese Studies

One full-time fully funded Ph.D. position in Chinese Studies. The student is expected to carry out research in Chinese intellectual history, philosophy, literature and/or culture. Comparative or cross-cultural perspectives are also welcome. Previous research experience in Chinese political thought is preferential. Suitable candidates will have a background in Sinology or Asian Studies. Candidates are required to have a good command of the English and Chinese language, knowledge of Estonian is an advantage. Knowledge of Classical Chinese and/or of a second Asian language is a strong advantage. The admitted candidate will be enrolled in the Ph.D. programme Studies of Cultures.

Supervisor: Lisa Indraccolo

One full-time fully funded Ph.D. junior researcher position in East Slavonic Culture

One fully-funded doctoral student position in the field of Slavic Studies focusing on or including studies of Russian or Ukrainian cultures. The successful candidate is expected to do research on one of the following  subjects (either separately or combined): Slavic cultures in historical perspective (preferably with an emphasis on microhistory); Slavic cultures in comparative perspective; diaspora studies; migration studies of speakers of Slavic languages; Eastern Slavic literatures in the Baltic states (preferably Estonia); multiculturalism and the Slavs. A suitable candidate should demonstrate prior experience with any of the research subjects listed above. А near-native proficiency in Russian and English or Ukrianian and English is a must; knowing Estonian, as well as previous scholarly publications in the field are an advantage. The admitted candidate will be enrolled to the PhD programme in Studies of Cultures.

Contact person: Maris Peters

Candidates interested in Estonian Cultural Studies should consider the following:

The candidate is expected to carry out research in Estonian  culture, recommended are various aspects of  analyzing or teaching and promoting of Estonian culture. Comparative or cross-cultural perspectives are also welcome. Previous research experience in Estonian cultural studies is preferential. Suitable candidates will have preferably a background in cultural studies, cultural history, Estonian studies, literary studies, teaching of Estonian language as second language and Estonian culture. Candidates are required to have a very good command of the Estonian and a good command of English language. The admitted candidate will be expected to contribute to the activities of the Estonian Language Centre. The candidate will be enrolled in the Ph.D. programme of Studies of Cultures.

Contact person: Maris Peters

Meet some of our Alumni

Miriam Rossi was a PhD student in Studies of Cultures. She completed her MA studies in Russian and English languages and literatures at the University of Pavia (IT). Miriam Rossi's doctoral research focused on poetry translation in uncensored spaces during Late Soviet Union. The research dealt in particular with the phenomenon of the Leningrad "samizdat", a clandestine circulation of texts, where particularly during the eighties translation activities flourished and the figure of the underground poet-translator emerges as the main agent of this cultural practice. Involving translation history, poetry translation and comparative literature, Miriam Rossi's research adopted various theoretical frames, from Pierre Bourdieu to Alexei Yurchak, investigating also poet-translators' meta-texts.

Mikhail Fiadotau earned his doctoral degree in Studies of Cultures with a focus in anthropology. He holds an MA degree in Linguistics from Minsk State Linguistics University in Belarus. His research interests include media and design anthropology, game studies, and Japanese studies. Mikhail's dissertation explores the cultural heterogeneity of videogame creation and consumption practices, with a particular focus on the independent gaming communities in the Anglophone world and Japan. Mikhail has carried out research visits at Japan Foundation's Kansai Institute in Osaka, Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, and Leipzig University. He also teaches game design in Tallinn University School of Digital Technologies and has delivered workshops and guest lectures on the subject in Estonia and abroad.

Ksenia Shmydkaya earned her doctoral degree in Studies of Cultures. She holds MA degree in Modern and Contemporary History from Lomonosov Moscow State University and M2 degree in History and Anthropology from Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris 1). Her current research focuses on the historical fiction created by women writers in the interwar Europe. Among her scholarly interests are gender history, life-writing, Eastern European feminisms, and relationship between literature and historiography.

Kristiine Kikas earned her doctoral degree in Studies of Cultures. Prior to that, she held a master’s degree in Comparative Literature and Cultural Semiotics from Tallinn University. Kristiine’s research belongs to the field of affect studies and it explores the possibilities for non-representational reading of poetry. Being grounded in the philososphy of Gilles Deleuze, specifically in his theories of experiencing art and literature, the aim of the work was to map the ways in which the language of poetry affects the reader besides and simultaneously with semantic meaning. 

I earned my PhD degree in Cultural Studies (Anthropology) from Tallinn University in 2020. My thesis researched the mask-making traditions of the Yup’ik, the Indigenous people of southwest Alaska. During my doctoral studies, I conducted multiple archaeological and ethnographic fieldworks in Alaska that have helped reconstruct the development of Yup’ik mask-making tradition throughout its colonial
history—oppression, resilience and recovery. In my work, I also discuss how the knowledge and traditional value system attached to mask making are being revived today in the work of contemporary Alaska Native artists. Through the restoration of pre-colonial cultural practices, contemporary artists heal themselves as well as local communities from colonial trauma, strengthening their long-repressed cultural identity.
I am thankful to Tallinn University for supporting my multidisciplinary, challenging and quite non-conventional research project.

  • Browse her thesis.
  • "Estonian researcher helps restore the long-suppressed mask-making tradition of the Indigenous people of Alaska". Read the article

"The PhD studies at the Tallinn University are a pleasant test for oneself: the interdisciplinary and international Doctoral School broadens horizons and provides the opportunity to see ones research area from new angles and using new approaches.This has enabled me, as a lecturer, to link my speciality area (dance and ballet history) with other research areas and find new touching points between different sciences. My more experienced colleagues have supported me in my quest for new perspectives and encouraged me to take steps into directions that a narrow disciplinary approach does not support. PhD studies enhance independent thinking and self-focussing in this ever fracturing world, helps to find contacts with likeminded people and collaborators for the future, not least important: contacts for the projects that come in the years after tudies".

Heili Einasto's thesis received a third prize in the Field of Culture and Social Sciences, PhD category at the annual Estonian National Contest for University Students in 2016.

"In my experience the strength of the PhD programme of School of Humanities lies in its flexible nature – it is always possible to bring together specialists from different Universities and various fields to create academic forums, which encourage fruitful exchange of ideas. While writing my PhD thesis I benefitted from long discussions with Prof. Rein Raud and Rajyashree Pandey (Glodsmith College) who gave me valuable advice on how to approach the various issues I wanted to discuss in my work. Prof. Pandey also organised special seminars on classical Japanese literature inviting PhD students from Helsinki University to participate. The contacts I made while studying in School of Humanities have been invaluable in my later work".

Browse his thesis

Follow his minilecture Can a spider attain enlightenment?

"I received my PhD degree in Studies of Cultures in 2011 from Tallinn University. The topic of my thesis was Poetics of Irrationality in A.H. Tammsaare’s Work. PhD degree, a sign of academic competence, allows to operate more professionally and with better results in many different fields of culture. Working as the head of the Tallinn Literature Centre (which combines the A. H. Tammsaare Museum and the Eduard Vilde Musem) it has become very clear to me that the time spent on the dedicated research was certainly worthwhile. It also becomes more and more clear to me that in the field of culture, there will always be a need for intelligent and well-educated members of national culture."

Postgraduate Destinations

Graduate career options

Internationally accredited PhD diploma opens positions that require a doctoral degree.

Further study opportunities

With a PhD obtained from Tallinn University, one can apply for PostDoc positions all over the world or continue individual academic development.

Contact Us!

  • Specific questions regarding the programme should be directed to the School of Humanities:
    Maris Peters

aDdressNarva mnt 25, 10120 Tallinn


  • For additional guidelines regarding admission procedure please contact the international admission specialist. 


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