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Call for Applications: Post-doctoral and Senior Research Fellowships in Cape Town, South Africa

Democratizing the Developmental State

The OSUN Forum on Democracy and Development by CEU Democracy Institute (Budapest), Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá ), the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town and the Social Scientists’ Association of Sri Lanka (Colombo) – invites applications for six post-doctoral and two senior research fellows for an 8-month residential fellowship program on the theme of “Democratizing the Developmental State” between October 1. 2024 and May 30. 2025 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The successful candidates are expected to carry out independent research on the theme of democratizing the developmental state. Fellows will also be expected to contribute to a broader conversation regarding the policy implications of their topic of research, and strategies for mitigating negative societal impacts. Preference will be given to interdisciplinary and cross-regional comparative research proposals especially if they are thematically linked to one or more of the other three research axes under the purview of the OSUN Democracy and Development project.

This initiative understands a ‘developmental state’ as one where political elites intervene in economic activities with the overarching goal of improving the international market competitiveness of their domestic production. There is no necessary connection between authoritarianism and the developmental state. Key characteristics are a developmental mindset among policymakers, the emergence of governed interdependence between local firms and political elites, and creation of the state capacity required to implement industrial policies in collaboration with firms. Major issues confronting both scholars and practitioners include identifying the conditions under which developmental states emerge, inquiring into how to catalyze those conditions within democratic polities, and examining developmental states’ transitions and trajectories from authoritarianism to democracy.

We particularly welcome systematic research on the following aspects:

  • Historical trajectories of economic nationalism in certain polities
  • The factors shaping the political survival and electoral strategies of political elites
  • The capabilities and business strategies of locally owned firms in internationally competitive industries
  • The role of labor and popular classes more generally in the construction and operation of developmental states
  • Diaspora professionals and entrepreneurs in transnational technical communities and the presence or absence of linkages to political and policy elites
  • How industrial policies are financed, and how democratic politics shapes the sources of finance and how finance is used
  • The opportunities provided by new green technologies and their falling prices for green development strategies
  • How the challenge of sustaining developmental states in the 21st century differs from the past


Applicants must have a PhD in a social science discipline or an interdisciplinary social science doctoral degree. Both early career scholars and established scholars are eligible.

We seek applicants with research experience and internationally recognized publications that demonstrate existing knowledge in subject areas relevant to the thematic topic, as well as the applicant’s ability to carry out independent research and communicate the findings through academic publications.

Applicants should also have a keen interest in networking and institution building and demonstrate commitment to engaging in both scholarly and public debates.

What we offer

We offer a competitive compensation package commensurate with experience as well as a dynamic and international academic environment.

Successful candidates will reside at the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town and they will participate in an unparalleled multi-sited fellowship program on Democracy and Development running simultaneously in Budapest, Bogota, Cape Town, and Colombo where interdisciplinary research on 4 interlinked research themes will nurture path-breaking ideas to rethink democracy in its political, social and economic dimensions. Fellows will benefit from:

  • The academic convenorship of experts with knowledge of the economics and politics of the developmental state historically and in comparative perspective
  • Participation in joint summer schools and frequent online collaboration with all Fellows across the 4 research hubs
  • A unique Methods Clinic, which will provide individualized methodological tutoring tailored to each candidate’s research project


Fellows will be hosted at the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at University of Cape Town in South Africa where they will be expected to reside for the duration of the program. Requests for short leaves to attend conferences or to carry out fieldwork need to be pre-notified in the application proposal.


Applicants need to submit:

  • Cover letter, which includes the motivation for applying for the fellowship
  • Academic CV
  • Envisioned individual research project
    • The research proposal should be 1500 to 1800 words and have a separate bibliography of maximum 2 pages A4 format.
    • The proposal should point to the puzzle or debate in the literature that motivates the research, elaboration of research project addressing issues of method, a work plan for the duration of the fellowship, and a description of expected outputs and outcomes.
    • The proposal should have a title and short abstract
  • Maximum 2 samples of scholarly work (best recent article, book chapter, working paper)
  • Names and contact details of two scholars who could supply recommendation letters in case the candidate is shortlisted for the job. The referees will be contacted by CEU DI.

Please submit your complete application package as one single pdf file with your last name and “devstate” as the title of the file (for example, smith_devstate.pdf). Send your application email with “OFP Devstate application” as the Subject to:

Informal inquiries about the research theme can be addressed to Lindsay Whitfield at

Selection Process

Applications: Open until filled.

Starting date of selection: February 15, 2024