Postdoctoral Research Associate in Theology and Religion

Durham, United Kingdom
£35,333 - £37,474.00 per annum
24 Nov 2022
End of advertisement period
06 Dec 2022
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Theology and Religion

Grade 7: - £35,333 - £37,474.00 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 24 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 06-Dec-2022, 7:59:00 AM

Durham University  

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department  

The Department of Theology and Religion is one of the very best in the UK with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students.  The Department also hosts the Centre for Death and Life Studies (Prof Douglas Davies as Director) with links across numerous Durham Departments and far beyond.

The Role  

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Digital Death with a particular emphasis on the historical and contemporary place of online platforms hosting issues of death and funerary titles and their influence on ideas of mortality.   

The project is entitled 'Digital Death: Transforming History, Rituals and Afterlife (DiDe)'. This project arose from a successful response to a call for research proposals on the theme of 'Transformations: Social and cultural dynamics in the digital age' advertised by CHANSE (Collaboration of Humanities and Social Sciences - A European based collective partly funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) and NORFACE (New Opportunities for Research Funds Agency Co-operation in Europe)).  Led by a colleague at Helsinki University in Finland – Asst. Prof. Dr Johanna Sumiala, it includes partners at Denmark’s Aarus University – Asst Prof Dr Dorthe Christensen, and Bucharest in Romania -Ms  Adela Toplean, along with Durham in England where Professor Douglas Davies is Principal Investigator. There will be a postgraduate assistant at each university.

Durham’s part in the overall project falls under the heading of ‘Histories of Digital Death’. Working with the Principal Investigator, Prof Douglas Davies, the research assistant will engage in data gathering of online and offline ethnographic materials, notably interviews with funeral service providers, civic and ecclesiastical officiants, crematorium staff, and bereaved persons. Some archival research will make full use of The Archives of the Cremation Society of Great Britain lodged at Durham University Library. Methods of research and analysis will include symbolic and content analyses of emergent ritual practice, and on how the digitalisation of death shapes emergent worldviews as frames for personal identity, digital afterlives, and potential shifts in notion of destiny. This will include a critique of how digital death may transform notions of immortality.

The successful applicant will be expected to work with Prof. Davies (Principal Investigator) and also liaise with the overall DiDe team which has Dr Johanna Sumiala (Helsinki) as the overall leader of the project, as well as the other colleagues in Denmark and Romania. Much will depend on close collaboration with these with the successful Durham Postdoc being expected to help organise events, as well as attend conferences.


  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To assist with the development of research objectives and proposals.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.   

This post is fixed term for 24 months, set by the CHANSE award and is available from 1 January 2023 for this fixed period only; the project is time limited and will end on 31 December 2024.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague, Professor Douglas Davies. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1st January 2023. 

How to Apply  

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Douglas Davies (douglas.davies@durham.ac.uk).  All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University .

  What to Submit  

All applicants are asked to submit: 

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;
  • Any single piece of appropriate writing or publication deemed relevant to the DiDe Project. 

Next Steps  

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment on Monday 19 December 2022.

The Requirements  



  • A good first degree in an appropriate Arts-Humanities and/or Social Sciences discipline.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in an appropriate Arts-Humanities and/or Social Sciences discipline


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national and international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience in online/digital and archive/historical, research as well as the capability of engaging in personal fieldwork interviews with a variety of subjects, and in analsying the results of such work.  The project emphasises the qualitative approach to issues of death and online mortality-related topics.


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience in statistical analyses of social studies. 
  • Knowledge of 'Death Studies as an interdisciplinary pursuit
  • Potential for some limited engagement with The Department's undergraduate module 'Death, Ritual and Belief' in sharing findings of research.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research. 

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.