Tallinn University is offering two full-time and fully funded doctoral student positions to conduct research in PhD projects connecting fields such as urban studies / cultural anthropology / cultural history / urban history / human geography / comparative literature.

Both PhD positions are offered for 4 years, starting on 1 September 2019.

The two positions are available within the forthcoming Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) project

"Public transport as public space in European cities: Narrating, experiencing, contesting (PUTSPACE)",

with an international research consortium led by Dr. Tauri Tuvikene, who is one of the supervisors for the PhD projects.

The project conceptualises public transport (PT) as public space: one which confronts citizens with social diversity, speaks of different types of ownership, discipline and surveillance, subversion, interaction and remaking of social norms. This conceptualisation is articulated through four objectives:

  1. to critically conceptualise and analyse what kind of public space public transport is;
  2. to understand urban transformations—the increasing social diversity and polarisation, liberalisation, privatisation and securitisation—of public space in European cities by attending to PT as particularly intense and contentious set of public spaces;
  3. to offer a located and historicised perspective on the transformation of public space by examining narratives, experiences and contestations over PT in different European cities;
  4. (to contribute to PT-related research, as well as, interventions in civic mobilising, planning and policy by a humanities-led analysis and conceptualisation of PT.

The two PhD students will join a team of four Principal Investigators and three senior researchers. PhD students are positioned at the interdisciplinary and international School of Humanities of Tallinn University (Estonia) but their work entails close collaboration with PUTSPACE project partners Åbo Akademi University (Turku, Finland), Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (Leipzig, Germany) and Université libre de Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium). Research stays at respective institutions are envisioned in the course of the PhD studies.

We seek two doctoral students who are responsible for strengthening the project’s conceptual intersection, by designing and implementing a theoretically-informed and empirically-grounded research project. While accepting single case study research, we strongly encourage comparative research.

Doctoral researchers can freely devise their own projects within the aims and scope of PUTSCAPE. The themes of the PhD projects outlined below are indicative and applicants are welcome to offer their own topics. 

PhD Project 1: European integration through practicing and struggling for fair public transport

The PhD student works in collaboration with The Université libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium and is expected to receive a double PhD from Tallinn University and The Université libre de Bruxelles.

We suggest that this PhD project focuses on the intersection of policies, practices, narratives and contestations in European public transport systems, to understand their potential for social integration. The project may study how diverse institutions and actors—from policy-makers to passengers/inhabitants, from urban elites to undocumented migrants, representing different classes, genders and ethnicities—are affected by the question of transport (in)justice and (un)fairness. At least part of the project should reflect on how the price of public transport affects its public dimension, for instance, looking at fare-free public transport programmes, and diverse fare abolition movements and resistances. We strongly encourage the use of diverse qualitative and quantitative methods, including (but certainly not limited to) interviews and questionnaires focused on diverse groups of stakeholders and transport users; analysis of discourses and narratives accompanying public transport policies and practices; and action research. We can offer relevant contacts in diverse potential research sites, including Brussels, Dunkirk, Luxembourg City, and Tallinn.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr. Frédéric Dobruszkes and Dr. Wojciech Kębłowski

ULB (Université libre de Bruxelles) is one of Belgium’s largest and most multicultural universities. Located in the heart of Brussels, it reflects the city’s cosmopolitan and diverse character. IGEAT (Institut de Gestion de l'Environnement et d'Aménagement du Territoire) engages in interdisciplinary research in the areas of the environment, spatial and regional planning. It specialises in developing critical thinking about urban development, and has long-standing expertise in urban transport and mobility. IGEAT is characterised by a particularly convivial and French-speaking environment (with strong English language proficiency).

PhD Project 2: Histories and cultures of public transport: a comparative look at public transport narratives

The PhD student works in collaboration with Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland and is expected to receive a double PhD from Tallinn University and Åbo Akademi University.

We suggest that the study links symbolic and material discourses, looking comparatively at the architectures of public transport vehicles and premises, mapping their historical development and the different ways in which they have affected public transport's quality of being public. The project may note the interlinkage of discourses on public transport vehicles and premises with experiences and contestations of public space in public transport. By highlighting the importance of the European-wide perspective the project may explore similarities and differences in terms of public transport imaginations across Europe.

We are looking for proposals building on literary studies/cultural studies and urban/cultural history points of view using diverse sets of literary and visual sources including but not limited to novels, poems, memoirs, film and TV (documentary or drama), theatre, still photography, city plans, and archival materials including advertisements, oral histories, municipal and legal records, and material items yielding insights into the experience of public transport in the cities investigated. Ethnographic and anthropological approaches to contemporary urban public transport are also welcome. In terms of the city or cities in focus, we particularly seek comparative studies but are also open to single-case studies.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr. Jason Finch.

Established 100 years ago, Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU) is built on principles including diversity, openness, courage, sustainability and participation. With a vital educational role as the only Swedish-language university in Finland, special focus areas for research at ÅAU include, among others, minority research and the sea. ÅAU has great ambitions regarding education and research, and has set high standards for boundary-crossing (co-)operation. Within the Faculty of Humanities, Psychology and Theology (FHPT) the department of English Language and Literature has a lively tradition of interdisciplinary and transcultural research spanning literature, linguistics and the society of English-speaking countries.

  • Both PhD students are expected to enrol either in an interdisciplinary doctoral programme in Cultural Studies (with specialisation in cultural theory, English or Estonian literature and culture, cultural geography, anthropology among others) or depending on the project focus in the doctoral programme in History offered at School of Humanities, Tallinn University.
  • The project funding allows for international research trips and conference attendance and the students are given support for publishing in international peer-reviewed journals. They are expected to conduct their own research on a topic closely related to the project, write and publish academic papers and their doctoral dissertation, as well as, being given an opportunity to teach and engage in public outreach activities.
  • The expected start date is 1 September, 2019 and the maximum duration of the contract is 4 years subject to positive evaluation of research in the course of studies). The positions include full social security coverage and a net salary of approximately € 1160 per month. The PhD students are expected to live and work in Tallinn with research stays at other project partners expected. Funding is available from PUTSPACE project to cover fieldwork, conference travel and meetings and research equipment costs.

About Tallinn University

Tallinn University is a young, vibrant public university located in Tallinn, a charming city with a medieval Old Town on the Baltic coast, offering a safe and high quality of life and an affordable cost of living. Tallinn University is the largest university of Humanities in Tallinn and the third biggest public university in Estonia with more than 7,500 students (9.5% of them international), and over 800 employees.

The School of Humanities at Tallinn University is a competence centre for a wide range of knowledge and experience in humanities. The School has a strong international background with both staff and students from a number of different countries. The School is home to research centres such as TU Centre of Excellence in Intercultural Studies, Centre for Landscape and Culture and Centre of History, Archaeology and Art History.

What we expect

  • Master's Degree, or equivalent. For PhD Project 1, we also expect previous experience with qualitative research methods (interviews or media analysis), for PhD Project 2, we expect experience of working with archival materials, literary analysis and/or in other areas of cultural analysis including visual, cultural, film or media studies.
  • We expect candidates to be from social sciences or humanities backgrounds, including fields such as urban studies, human geography, social and cultural anthropology, cultural studies, history, cultural history or urban history, literature studies or other cognate fields.
  • An excellent level of spoken and written English (knowledge of Estonian is not required). Candidates will develop a research project and have language capacities for conducting anthropological or cultural research on the field.
  • Previous research on public space and/or mobilities is a strong advantage (information to be included in CV).
  • Ability and willingness to collaborate with academic and non-academic partners (including artists, museum curators, civil society organisations, practitioners).
  • Full time commitment for PhD studies and successful annual attestation in the course of studies.

What we offer

  • Competitive pay
  • Strong international research team
  • Fieldwork funding for an international research project
  • Workshop and conference funds

Please submit the following documents:

  • One or two-page CV
  • Research proposal of 1200 to 1500 words. The proposal must be written in English and must be no longer than 1500 words (not including footnotes, references and bibliography). It should outline the research that you wish to pursue in your PhD dissertation and connect it to the project PUTSPACE. It should demonstrate knowledge of the state of the art in the field, formulate (a) research question(s) and include a description of methodology and a short bibliography. When drafting your research proposal please indicate the ways in which your research would intersect with the project and contribute to it, as well as how your past research activities have prepared you for a position within the HERA project team.
  • A one page description of candidate’s teaching experience so far and a vision of the possible teaching assignments to be conducted during the PhD studies at Tallinn University. It is highly recommended to find, in collaboration with the prospective supervisor, some links with the present courses and study programmes taught at Tallinn University.
  • Please indicate in the application document to which PhD project you are applying for.

Candidates are expected to send their documents by 1 May 2019.

After review of applications, shortlisted candidates will be asked to expand their research proposals and will be invited for an interview. Additional documents are requested from shortlisted candidates.

Please see full application information including deadlines on one of the following PhD programme's website:

Studies of Cultures


The contract signing is subject to completion of contractual negotiations with the research funding agency.

Following our commitment to gender equality, we especially welcome applications from female candidates.

Further information regarding application procedure

Maris Peters (maris.peters@tlu.ee)

With content related questions on PhD proposals for the HERA PUTSPACE project, write directly to Dr. Tauri Tuvikene (tauri.tuvikene@tlu.ee)