PhD opportunity: Narrative and Nuclear Materials

Narrative and Nuclear Materials: Fully Funded PhD studentship (3 years) in the Department of Languages and Cultures, Lancaster University, UK and the Leverhulme Centre for Material Social Futures Research.

Full job description and application details here.


We live in a world where energy demand continues to expand. Individuals and institutions do not just use more, they consume it in ever more diverse ways. Whilst there might be a willingness to use more sustainable power sources, the increase in demand outstrips the pace with which new sources can be developed, and no source of energy is without its ecological and social consequences. Furthermore, the cultural narratives that shape and frame public expectations around energy are sometimes as powerful as the possibilities of technology. A body of literary, cinematic, graphic and visual work mediates the public imaginary when it comes to nuclear power. From eco-literature, to dystopian and utopian imaginings, through science fiction, comics and the gothic, these potent cultural narratives intersect with scientific discourse, as well as with the social narratives constructed through broader public discourse on nuclear power, its weaponization, legacy, and waste.

The project

The central premise of this research is that long-term solutions to nuclear materials cannot be found through technological innovation alone but through a joined-up approach that combines scientific knowledge with far-reaching cultural and social epistemologies. Your proposed project will therefore investigate the relationship between narrative, broadly conceived, nuclear materials and social futures as they play out in a particular cultural area (this may be defined geographically, linguistically, or by some other discrete parameter, e.g. genre). The project will combine scientific research into nuclear materials, their legacy and distribution, with social-sciences and humanities methodologies that involve taking seriously the cultural narratives that inform public perceptions of nuclear materials.

The concerns of the project will be cultural, sociological, environmental, and material, though in this PhD the emphasis will be on the socio-cultural. Your project may propose close work with civic communities in the North West of England, where the issue of nuclear materials legacy remains highly contentious and urgent, or engage with communities addressing similar issues in other parts of the globe. The PhD on ‘Narrative and Nuclear Materials’ will be undertaken alongside and in collaboration with a PhD on ‘Safer nuclear fuels for a sustainable world’ based in the Engineering Department. The combination is intended to develop a multidimensional understanding of a nuclear future.

Further Details

  • Cover full payment of academic fees (at the standard RCUK rate);
  • A maintenance stipend (£14,777 pa);
  • Access to a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) for reimbursement of research-related expenses including – but not limited to – conference attendance, training courses and equipment of at least £800 p.a.;
  • Access to a range of training and development provided by the Material Social Futures PhD Programme, the Department of Languages and Cultures, the Engineering Department, the Faculty of Science and Technology, the Institute for Social Futures and Lancaster University;
  • The Material Social Futures PhD programme will offer internships (including international placements) in the second and/or third year of training.

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