Funded PhD opportunities

Translating the cultural dimension of Western representations of drone killings in Syria, Somalia and Yemen

  • Application end date: 22nd January 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (UK students only)
  • Department: School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Sophia Wood, Dr Peter Lee, Dr Esther Sonnet


ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (SCDTP) funded. Project code: HPSS4220118

Project in brief 

Using the Nexis database and other primary source databases, this analysis will involve a critical discourse analysis of contemporary Anglophone newspaper articles, television news transcripts and ‘social media’ commentary about militarized drones and drone strikes in the US and UK. The analysis will seek to identify the normative ethical and ideological assumptions of this discourse, asking to what extent public drone discourse empowers or de-agentifies individuals or communities in target areas, ‘empties’ acts of war of moral content (Bauman 1989), reinforces subject-object dichotomies, or justifies or delegitimises the use of militarized drones. Since the focus of this project is on translating the mediation of individual and community cultures in target areas, the textual analysis will be underpinned by theoretical paradigms concerned with the discursive representation of distant suffering (Boltanski 1999; Bauman 2004), the use of metaphors and euphemisms used in war and genocide (Bauman 1989), modes of witnessing, and the problematics of ‘ironic spectation’ in the age of media spectacle (Chouliaraki 2012).

Specific Research Questions

  • How do representations of guilt and innocence in target regions shape Western drone discourse?
  • To what extent are the identities, cultures, values and experiences of individuals in target areas appropriated and used in support of Western governments and interest groups?
  • To what extent do Western drone discourses disempower individuals and groups in affected areas?

Supervisor profiles

Dr Sophia Wood, Senior Lecturer - Dr Sophia Wood Profile

Dr Peter Lee, Reader in Politics and Ethics - Dr Peter Lee Profile

Dr Esther Sonnet, Media and Performing Arts - Dr Esther Sonnet

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0. 

For all funding, students must have qualifications of the standard of a good honours degree at first or upper second-class level, from a UK academic higher education institution. Degree qualifications gained from outside the UK, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience that is equivalent to a relevant UK degree, may be accepted.

Before you apply, please make sure you meet the candidate specification.

Candidates do not need to submit a project proposal, however are required to submit a 500 word personal statement to include: 

  • Details of how your skills and interests match the project
  • Background and previous experience
  • Research interests

If you need to discuss this project and your application further then please contact a member of the supervision team as listed below, in advance of the deadline dates:

Dr Sophia Wood –

Dr Peter Lee –

Dr Esther Sonnet –

Specific candidate requirements 

Foundation in quantitative methods, especially regression modelling and an interest in place effects on health. Ability to embrace the complex modelling of large datasets.

There are two stages to the application process 

(1) The first application form you need to complete is for your chosen programme of study at the University of Portsmouth. 

Apply to the University of Portsmouth through our standard online application form and follow the instructions given under the ’Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages before you submit your SCDTP application: 

When applying to the University of Portsmouth, you will need to enter project code - HPSS4220118

The closing date for University of Portsmouth applications is 22 January 2018, 11.59 pm. 

(2) The second application form which requires completion is the South Coast DTP Funding Application Form. There are two versions of this form which can be downloaded. In accordance with the SCDTP guidance, please ensure you use the correct form (in this case the ’South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form’). 

The ’South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form’, and more information on the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership can be found at: 

You will then need to submit your funding application to the SCDTP by 31 January 2018, 11.59 pm. 

For more detailed information about the project, please see the university webpage: 


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Professor Aldert Vrij at or 023 9284 6319, Dr Zarah Vernham at or 023 9284 6345, Dr Galit Nahari at or 03-5318654.

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

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