GKAT’s interdisciplinary research program focuses on the emergence and transformation of authority and trust in American politics, society, religion, literature and culture from the nineteenth century to the present. We have designed three broad research areas. This tripartite division is pragmatic rather than categorical: The research areas are meant to provide applicants with ideas about how to place and develop their research projects and to offer platforms for interdisciplinary conversation and cooperation.
In recent decades American society and culture have become increasingly polarized. Studies show that American institutions and elites are suffering from a dramatic loss of authority and trust. Economic inequality, social and spatial segregation and a decaying infrastructure have undermined trust in the fairness and efficiency of political processes. Anti-establishment populism and conspiracy theories resonate widely among the general public. Police brutality has reinforced a deep-seated distrust of authorities among minorities.
Commentators and scholars agree that the crisis of authority and trust has been developing for decades and reflects the dissolution of social cohesion and consensus. Many Americans lament the end of the American Dream, the prospect of social upward mobility through hard work and educational achievement. The crisis of authority and trust has also affected U.S. leadership in world politics and the global economy.
Against this background, GKAT aims at a systematic and interdisciplinary inquiry into the emergence and transformation of authority and trust in American politics, society, religion, literature and culture since the nineteenth century. We propose to go beyond popular notions of crisis and decline and probe the complexities and contradictions of authority and trust in American life. Due to its early democratization, its egalitarian and libertarian political culture, its ethno-cultural heterogeneity, and its international predominance, the United States is a particularly interesting case of authority and trust in the modern world. American culture has been shaped both by a profound distrust of authorities and by far-reaching claims of political, social, and cultural institutions to authority and trust (e.g. the military, religious communities, foundational texts, etc.). Authority and trust, we suggest, do not simply decline or disappear but are subject to constant change.
We conceive of authority and trust as dynamic and complementary concepts. Authority pertains to the tension between power and legitimacy and implies the ability to induce voluntary obedience. In contrast, trust often connotes personal and intimate relationships among equals. But trust also extends to larger impersonal entities and institutions. As a social relationship based on voluntary compliance, authority seeks the trust of those who are asked to comply. The relationship and interaction between social and institutional trust, on the one hand, and claims to authority on the other form the key interest of our research training group. How has the United States, as a modern pluralistic and democratic society and as a world power, created authority and trust? How have the sources, functions and manifestations of authority and trust changed over time?
GKAT invites applications for 10 three-year Ph.D. positions (October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2023). For more information please download the call for applications.
What We Are Looking For
- GKAT targets postgraduates with a background in the following disciplines: American Studies, urban geography, history, literature and culture, political science, social science, linguistics, economics, and religious history.
- We strongly encourage international junior scholars to apply.
What You Should Bring To GKAT
- An excellent master’s degree or equivalent
- A high personal motivation for scholarly work and research
- An interest in and readiness to engage in interdisciplinary cooperation
- An innovative and feasible dissertation project within one of GKAT’s broadly defined research areas
- Fluency in English and a familiarity with American culture
- A willingness to take residence in Heidelberg and to enroll as a doctoral student at Heidelberg University
What You Need To Submit
- A standard curriculum vitae (1-2 pages)
- An outline which identifies the topic, research area, research question, theoretical approaches and methodology of your proposed research project (2-3 pages)
- A letter of motivation (1-2 pages)
- A writing sample from your master’s thesis or equivalent which demonstrates familiarity with the standards of academic work (10 pages maximum)
- Copies of degrees and diplomas
For more information click "LINK TO ORIGINAL" below.
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