PhD Funding: “Dynamics of Conventionality (400-1550)”, University of Cologne (Deadline 3rd July 2023)

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Cologne has the following positions available:

4 doctoral positions for a period of three years starting on 1st October 2023 within the framework of the Research Training Group 2212 “Dynamics of Conventionality (400–1550)”. The monthly remuneration for the doctoral positions amounts to 65 % TV-L 13.

The Cologne research training group engages in a reorientation of interdisciplinary research regarding the Middle Ages both in terms of content and methodology. Using ‘conventionality’ as our key concept, we aim at reconstructing the dynamics of European societies and cultures for the time period between 400 and 1550. The hitherto neglected concept of conventionality will enable us to reframe the dynamics of change in medieval history, art, architecture, music, philosophy, and literature. Methodologically, we distance ourselves from the narrative of modernization that – operating with key words such as ‘revolution’ and ‘innovation’ – entails describing the Middle Ages as a deficient preliminary stage of modernity. Such narratives preserve rather static conceptions of an era and tend to justify them in alluding to the specific traditionalism and conventionality of the Middle Ages and its societal and cultural manifestations. In contrast, the Cologne research training group aims at reconstructing their complexity and variety by adopting the concept of conventionality that has been theoretically and philosophically developed within the field of cultural studies. Conventionality signifies all rule-based forms of common actions and practical knowledge that are based on social agreement and guarantee cultural and societal stability and are yet intrinsically apt to various forms of modification and adaptation. Thus, conventions are crucial to facilitate processes of transformation whose effects transcend the great narratives of modernization.

For the time period between 400 and 1550, the significance of conventionality is manifest in the pivotal and ubiquitous concept of consuetudo (custom, habit). Based on this concept, reasoning on social change and persistence was carried out, and a corpus of accepted social and artistic rules was developed. Even though these rules claimed to be normative, they were subject to a constant process of negotiation, modification, reformulation and fictionalization—or they could even be dismissed as bad habits. The Cologne research training group plans to investigate the dynamics of conventionality in different spheres of medieval society. It traces a type of practical knowledge that is not based on rational and controlled methods of the production of knowledge, but on rule-based forms of social agreement. Taking three sets of terms contrary to conventionality – norm, science, and originality – as a foil for comparison, we intend to explore a cluster of thematically differentiated configurations of conventionality in an interdisciplinary context.

The research training group conducts research from an interdisciplinary perspective into the dynamics of conventionality from late antiquity to the early modern era. Under the overarching motto of convention, phenomena such as custom, regularity, tradition, and habitualisation are examined in order to understand their inner dynamics. The disciplines involved are history, German philology, philosophy, art and history, medieval Latin philology, Byzantine studies and musicology. The research training group offers a structured doctoral programme that is integrated interdisciplinarily and internationally. More information on the thematic orientation:

An excellent university degree in one of the subjects covered by the research training group and a clearly recognisable focus on medieval studies are prerequisite for applicants for the doctoral positions. Please submit the following documents in one pdf-file as part of your application:

– Curriculum Vitae and certificates

– a 4-page exposé on the planned doctoral project
– a 1-page letter of motivation
– a letter of recommondation by a professor

The University of Cologne actively supports equal opportunities and the research institute particularily welcomes applications from female candidates.

Please send your written application by email as one pdf-file by July 3, 2023 to:

Universität zu Köln
GRK 2212
Dr. Anica Schumann


Published by charlottecook

Charlotte Cook graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European History from Washington & Lee University in 2019. In 2020 she received her Master’s degree in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, earning the classification of Merit. Her research explores questions of royal patronage, both by and in honor of rulers, in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. She has worked as a researcher and collections assistant at several museums and galleries, and plans to begin her PhD in the autumn of 2022.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: