Doctoral Student

The Institute of Social Anthropology is looking for a doctoral student to be part of the research project "Arbitraging extraction: Arbitral reasoning in the legal topographies of global extraction". Deadline: 05.12.2021 @unibern




The project (Arbitrex) will examine how international investment arbitration is transforming the relations and hierarchies between the various normative orders that govern the supply chains of extractive resources. This collaborative ethnographic research will investigate how international arbitration reasoning is produced, legitimised and enacted through three research axes: i) the production, institutionalisation and circulation of arbitration knowledge, ii) the ad-hoc administrative and legal practices of the interpretation and evaluation of contracts and treaties by actors implicated in disputes brought to arbitral courts; iii) the role of the arbitration system in (re)shaping the geographies of global extraction.

These axes will be empirically explored through a multi-sited ethnography of arbitration's education centers where arbitral knowledge is transmitted, law firms where legal work is performed, private courts and arbitral institutions where expertise is enacted, and disputed sites politically concerned with notions of resources' sovereignty and/or environmental protection. Rather than considering them independently, the team will focus on the mutual translations of arbitral knowledge and governance practices between these sites, via three case studies of disputed extraction projects (Tanzania, Colombia and Canada).


  • Realization of a research project addressing the legal logics and practices, local perceptions, and political implications of investment disputes settlement of extractive projects (processes of dis-entanglements of state and private laws, indigenous and environmental rights under international law, and international investment law).
  • Conduct extensive field research in a country implicated in an investment dispute (such as Colombia, Peru).
  • Liaise with actors concerned by and/or implicated in arbitral disputes (arbitrators and lawyers, government agents, communities, etc.).
  • Present research outputs at conferences, write a dissertation, and contribute to joint publications.
  • Co-organization of workshops.
  • Achieve a PhD in social anthropology.


  • M.A. (or an equivalent university degree) in Social Anthropology or related disciplines in the social sciences (with demonstrated experience of ethnographic and qualitative research).
  • Theoretical and empirical interest in the fields of legal anthropology and/or political anthropology and/or economic anthropology.
  • Field specialization, or demonstrated interest, in extraction/extractivism, environmental justice, corporate governance, or the legal field.
  • Fluency in English
  • Ability to work autonomously and collaborate in teams.
  • Participation to the life of the institute is expected.

We offer

  • Extensive supervision by the principal investigator, Dr. Matthieu Bolay, and the main supervisor, Prof. Julia Eckert,
  • A dynamic research team in a lively institute,
  • An innovative and collaborative research setting,
  • The opportunity to join a Graduate Program in Anthropology,
  • A scientific engagement in national and international networks.

Contact and Application

We are looking forward to your application. Please enclose the following documents:

  • Cover letter with an indication of your research interests
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • A writing sample (e.g. article, chapter of M.A. thesis)
  • Copies of your degrees
  • Addresses of two persons who can be contacted

Please send your documents in one pdf to Matthieu Bolay.
Application deadline: 05.12.2021.

Contact: Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern. Phone: +41 31 631 89 95.


More details

Matthieu Bolay

matthieu.bolay[ at ]

Send documents to

Matthieu Bolay

matthieu.bolay[ at ]