PhD Position: The Role of (Private) Law in Food Systems Transformation

Research / Academic

The Project
We are inviting proposals for a PhD project that would explore the connection between (private) law and food systems transformation. How do current legal frameworks affect sustainable food systems transformation and what type of legal frameworks might help such transformative processes? Proposals are welcome to approach this question from all possible perspectives and subfields of (private) law. Approaches addressing the question of sustainable labour in food systems transformation are particularly welcome.

The PhD project should fill a critical gap in existing scholarship by highlighting the connection between established legal structures and emerging sustainable (labour) practices within the current predominantly extractive food systems. The project should aim at deepening our knowledge on how law is shaping not only exploitative food industries but also emerging sustainable alternatives. The project needs to make a contribution towards answering the question about how (private) law should be rethought at fundamental level in order to better support such sustainable practices of food production, leading to sustainable and just food systems overall. The proposals are encouraged to take a holistic approach to the question of sustainable and just food systems transformation. Especially important is the connection between nature and labour, expressed in the entanglement of land, labourers, communities and ecosystems.

While the project does not have an exclusive regional interest, proposals with a focus on the Netherlands, the Global South or regions that are otherwise marginalised in research are particularly welcome. The projects should entail conducting original empirical research on food production models that foster sustainable labour practices, ecological sustainability, social justice, and economic equity. Such original empirical insights should offer deeper understanding of how legal structures affect transformative change towards sustainable, just, equitable, and worker-governed food systems.


  • You have a master’s degree in law or a related discipline in the social sciences or humanities;
  • You are interested in conducting research on a topic related to the broader theme of the project and are committed to completing a doctoral dissertation in a period of four years;
  • You have experience with conducting academic research and academic writing in English;
  • You have experience or are interested in working with interdisciplinary methodological approaches such as law and society, law and political economy, law and economic sociology, legal anthropology, ethnography, participatory research methods etc.;
  • You are interested in studying law-related research questions through conducting an original empirical study;
  • You have a strong interest in pursuing a career in research;
  • You are willing to contribute to activities related to the project such as the organising of academic events or outreach and communication of research results to activists, relevant communities of practitioners and policy makers;

Then the job of at the University of Amsterdam is perfect for you as a highly versatile professional.

What does this job entail?

  • You will be employed as a doctoral researcher at the Private law department at Amsterdam Law School with the purpose of completing a doctoral dissertation in a period of four years;
  • You will become part of the Amsterdam Research Centre of Transformative Private Law (ACT) and the Sustainable Global Economic Law Network (SGEL), thus joining a vibrant international research community;
  • You will have some limited teaching obligations upon arrangement with the Private Law Department at the Amsterdam Law School;
  • You will need to conduct empirical research (fieldwork) in the Netherlands or at another location according to your specific PhD project;
  • You will be supported in developing your own and original PhD research by a team of academic supervisors, and structured skills and research trainings and workshops provided by the University of Amsterdam;
  • You will have access to some funding for conducting field work, attending conferences and workshop.

What do you have to offer?
In addition, you have:

  • Ability to carry out interdisciplinary academic research with focus on (private) law;
  • Knowledge of and interest in general private law theory or specific private law subfields;
  • Knowledge of and interest in the project theme and related fields of study including, for example, food systems studies, global political economy of food production, environmental labour studies, social movements etc;
  • Excellent organizational skills and ability to work independently;
  • Excellent written and oral communication in English (proficiency in Dutch is an advantage);
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, willingness, and ability to work with others.

Salary Benefits:

We offer an employment contract for four years with a probationary period of one year, preferably starting on 1 September 2024. The employment contract is for 38 hours a week.

Your salary, depending on your relevant experience on commencement of the employment contract, ranges between €2.770 to €3.539 gross per month on the basis of a full working week of 38 hours. This sum does not include the 8% holiday allowance and the 8.3% year-end allowance. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU) is applicable.

Work Hours:

38 hours per week


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