Five Postdoctoral Researchers on Irritation project

Updated: 5 months ago
Deadline: 08 Jan 2023

The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki invites applications for the positions of
for a fixed term period starting as agreed for the duration of 33-36 months.

IRRITATION research group is seeking 5 postdoctoral researchers, to work in a multidisciplinary team that brings together methods and approaches from anthropology and psychology, for a cross-cultural comparative study of irritation and human sociality. The research team is led by Dr Anni Kajanus and funded by ERC Starting Grant and Academy of Finland Project Grant. Dr Kajanus is a psychological anthropologist who has carried out ethnographic and experimental research in China, the UK and Finland on topics of psychological anthropology, including human cooperation and morality in cross-cultural comparative perspective.

We are seeking 5 postdoctoral researchers. At least 3 of these researchers will be expected to carry out ethnographic fieldwork and up to 2 of them will be working on the other methodological tracks, drawing from psychology and related fields. Combination of methodological tracks is possible for a person with mixed-method expertise.

Anthropologically oriented positions: 3-5 of the postdoctoral researchers are expected to carry out ethnographic fieldwork (around 12 months) at a field site where they have prior experience, language proficiency and connections. We are looking for researchers with solid anthropological training and experience in ethnographic fieldwork, and interest in psychological anthropology and integrating explorative ethnography with systematic comparative methods, such as the use of field experiments. Regional specialization is open, however variance across field sites is a prerequisite of the project and will be a factor in selection. Experience of mixed-method research, and thematic expertise in emotions, morality and/or human cooperation, is desirable but not required.

Psychologically oriented positions: Up to 2 of the postdoctoral researchers will be more oriented towards systematic comparative methods (e.g. experiments, psychometric surveys, network analysis). Here we are looking for researchers with training and background in one of these methodologies, and interest in cross-cultural comparative research. For the postdoctoral researchers focusing on the non-ethnographic parts of the research, it may be possible to be based at the London School of Economics as a Visiting Fellow, for part of the project, to work together with colleagues with expertise in these methodologies. The applicant’s research interests should be aligned with the goals and the broad research areas of the research group.

In addition to completing their individual research, all appointed researchers are expected to participate in the joint design of comparative systematic methods on the basis of initial ethnographic findings, and to conduct this research in their field sites. Other main tasks include writing up joint publications from the comparative aspects of the project, working on individual publications, actively participating in other research activities of the group, and contributing to teaching in Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki (up to 5% time commitment annually).

In addition to requirements listed in person specifications for different roles, appointees must hold a doctoral degree in Anthropology, Psychology, or a related discipline; have the ability to work independently and collaboratively in research teams; and have excellent communication skills in English. The default assumption is that the degree requirement must be met by the beginning of the employment.

The chosen applicant is expected to reside in Finland while employed by the University of Helsinki. The Faculty of Social Sciences provides assistance in relocation.

We are an equal opportunity employer and offer an attractive and diverse workplace in an inspiring environment with a variety of development opportunities and benefits. The annual gross salary range will be approx. €42,000 – €47,000, depending on the appointee’s qualifications and experience. In addition, University of Helsinki offers comprehensive services to its employees, including occupational health care and opportunities for professional development. The employment contract will include a probationary period of six months.

The chosen applicant is expected to reside in Finland while employed by the University of Helsinki. The Faculty of Social Sciences provides assistance in relocation.

Please submit your application, together with the required attachments, through the University of Helsinki Recruitment System via the link "Apply now" below. Applicants who are currently employed by the University of Helsinki are requested to submit their application via the SAP Fiori portal at The closing date for applications is 8 January 2023.
Applicants are requested to enclose with their applications the following documents in English:
1) A curriculum vitae, 2) A statement (max 1 page) outlining how the applicant would contribute to the project. For positions including ethnographic fieldwork, include a brief field site description highlighting a few points that would make it interesting to investigate irritation in this context, 3) A numbered list of publications on which the applicant has marked in bold their three key publications to be considered during the review.
Detailed information on the CV and list of publications can be obtained online .

Applicants of any gender, linguistic and cultural background or from members of minority groups are welcomed.

Further information about the position and the research project may be obtained from Dr Anni Kajanus, anni.kajanus(at)

Irritation is a pervasive feature of the human experience, and of human sociality in particular, yet it has been very little studied by social and natural scientists. Research on irritation as it bears on interpersonal relationships, rather than as a physical reaction to a sensory experience, is particularly thin. This project investigates irritation as a feature of human sociality in diverse cultural contexts, with a particular focus on issues related to cooperation and morality. It brings together methods and approaches from anthropology and psychology; we will conduct in-depth ethnographic research in 4-6 culturally distinct environments, and drawing on the ethnographic findings, develop methods of systematic comparison (e.g. experimental tasks, psychometric surveys). The primary aim of this project is to develop a comprehensive account of irritation that brings together the social, cultural, and psychological dimensions of it. The secondary aim is to bring the analysis of irritation into dialogue with the analysis of two fundamental features of human sociality: cooperation and morality. On the one hand, it might be felt that irritation is a threat to our close relationships; that if taken too far it will compromise the very patterns of cooperation and care on which these relationships depend. And yet the pervasiveness of irritation suggests something else: that in some sense we may need irritation – even that it is a constitutive feature of human sociality. Investigating the role irritation plays in the maintenance and disintegration of cooperative relationships, and in moral judgements, will enlarge our understanding of the emotional side of human sociality.
The Faculty of Social Sciences is Finland’s leading research and education institute in the social  sciences, and the country’s most diverse social sciences faculty in terms of the range of its disciplines  and fields of research. The Faculty has a strong international research profile and an international  master’s programme, and several of its disciplinary units have been rated among the top 50 in the world.  The Faculty has approximately 500 research and teaching staff, and each year it awards some 350 bachelor’s degrees, 400 master’s degrees and more than 40 doctoral degrees.

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