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Mellon Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellow

Recruitment Period

Open December 13th, 2018 through January 31st, 2019


The UCI School of Humanities invites applications for a one year postdoctoral fellow for 2019-2020. The postdoctoral fellow will take a leading role in “Suffer Well,” a John E. Sawyer Seminar funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The fellow will be affiliated with the Humanities Commons, UCI’s humanities institute, as well as the appropriate academic department. While in residence at UCI, the Mellon Fellow will participate in all activities associated with the Sawyer Seminar, have limited teaching and/or public programming duties, and have the opportunity for scholarly work. The successful candidate will have a research agenda that addresses issues of suffering from the perspectives of, though not limited to, medical/health humanities and/or disability studies.

Duties will include:
• Participate in Sawyer Seminar activities.
• Write content for project website, blog, and other social media.
• Contribute to research and writing for the seminar.
• Engage with seminar participants and visiting scholars.
• Assist with events, including publicity, hosting visiting scholars, and on-site coordination.
• Lead panel discussions and small group meetings.
• Conduct own research as proposed.
• Possibility to teach one upper-division undergraduate course in Spring 2020. Minimum Qualifications:
• Ph.D. in a humanities discipline. Candidates must have degree in hand by June 2019.
• Evidence of a research agenda concerned with suffering.
• Excellent writing and analytical skills; experience in writing for different purposes and a diversity of audiences, including but not limited to scholarly audiences.
• Strong interdisciplinary interests, skills, and experience.
• Flexibility, nimbleness, and creativity, with the ability to work both collaboratively and independently.
• Experience in project management and/or in organizing workshops or conferences.

Meeting Suffering Again For the First Time

“Suffer Well” brings together scholars, artists, and medical practitioners to explore human suffering as both the limit of communication and expression and the event horizon from which new forms of sociality and social formation may be made possible. The main purpose of “Suffer Well” is to create a dialogue around how different disciplines attend to and develop modes of understanding suffering and react to experiences of suffering. While suffering is an existential theme, the contemporary attention to and attitude of suffering has not been able to engage the question of suffering in a comprehensive way. Instead, suffering is regarded and, at times, treated as a problem that may be alleviated by measurable pathways, whether pharmacological, therapeutic, linguistic, or political. Yet the experience of suffering exceeds recompense, reflects social as well as medical causes, and demands new forms of social response beyond the analgesic. This seminar attempts to bring these various approaches to suffering into conversation in order to understand how attention to suffering can lead us to rethink the relationship between the subjective experience of one person’s suffering to suffering on larger scales, from households to communities.

To attend to suffering not in the name of simple and simplistic alleviation, but rather an attention to suffering as something to behold and wonder is to imagine suffering as a painful, even excruciating, portal through which new social formations and even political models might emerge, if we pay attention to what happens when we pay attention to suffering. This kind of attention requires the marshalling of every discipline for which forms of language and communication are the main vocation—verbal, visual, sonic, haptic, to name just a few—to find new allocations of language to approximate the experiences of suffering, and to register where and when suffering still requires silent witnessing as monument.

Application Process:

The application must be submitted by January 31, 2019

Applications must include the following:
• Completed application form;
• Cover letter discussing how your research aligns with the theme of “Suffer Well” and your organizational experience, as well as your practice of interdisciplinary work and/or your interest in addressing multiple audiences;
• Curriculum Vitae.
Candidates under final consideration will be asked to provide the following:
• A research proposal describing what you plan to accomplish during the fellowship year, how it aligns with the theme “Suffer Well,” and the significance of the project.
• A description of a proposed upper-division undergraduate course related to the seminar theme.
• Graduate transcript.
• Writing sample (no more than 8,000 words total).
• At least 3 confidential letters of recommendation

Contact: Amanda Jeanne Swain, Executive Director, UCI Humanities Commons,

The University of California, Irvine is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer advancing inclusive excellence. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, protected veteran status, or other protected categories covered by the UC nondiscrimination policy.

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Document requirements
  • Curriculum Vitae - Your most recently updated C.V.

  • Cover Letter - Cover letter discussing how your research aligns with the theme of “Suffer Well” and your organizational experience, as well as your practice of interdisciplinary work and/or your interest in addressing multiple audiences

  • Statement of Research (Optional)

  • Statement of Teaching - See our guidance for writing a reflective teaching statement.

  • Statement of Contributions to Diversity - Statement addressing how past and/or potential contributions to diversity will advance UCI's Commitment to Inclusive Excellence.

  • Misc / Additional (Optional)

Reference requirements
  • 3-5 letters of reference required

How to apply

  1. Create an ApplicantID
  2. Provide required information and documents
  3. If any, provide required reference information
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