Project code



School of Area Studies History Politics and Literature

Start dates

October 2021

Closing date


This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only. View our current projects here.

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD or four-year Masters and PhD studentship to commence in October 2021.

The studentship is funded by the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (SCDTP), a collaboration between the universities of Portsmouth, Southampton and Brighton.

The studentship covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant of £15,285 (2020/21 rate).

The supervisors are Professor Peter Lee, Dr Susana Sampaio-Dias and Professor Leila Choukroune.

The work on this project will:

  • Investigate whether lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) offer unique violations of human dignity
  • Explore how the concept of dignity has emerged in the discourses of war and international law
  • Review how historical representations of dignity violations in war inform current LAWS debate

The study will explore the emergence of the use of dignity in discourses of war, ethics and international law, which inform analysis of whether lethal autonomous weapon systems offer – or not – unique violations of dignity today and in the future. Methodologically, a poststructuralist or critical theory approach will be used to understand how meanings have been formed, adapted, and operationalised/ avoided in the justification of violent political action. Open source media, governmental, UN, ICRC and military discourses will be analysed.

Entry requirements

All candidates must hold a good honours degree (2:1 and above) from a recognised higher education institution. Please note, students applying without a Master's qualification containing a substantial Social Sciences methods component may be required to complete such a Master's beforehand. The Master's will be fully funded by the SCDTP and will be run from the University of Southampton.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Successful candidates should have a background in International Relations, International Law or Cultural Studies, ideally with an interest in security studies, war studies, or political communication. Willingness to participate in appropriate qualitative research methods training.

How to apply

The first thing you will need is a University supervisor to support your SCDTP application, so you’ll need to contact the project supervisors before you submit an application. 

The project will require you to discuss possible methods and research design as well as detailing how your skills, background, and research interests match the project. It is therefore very important that you discuss the project with the supervisor.  

Full instructions are given on the SCDTP application form and there are different word limits depending on whether you are applying for a 1+3 (ie Masters in Social Research Methods plus PhD) or +3 (PhD only).  

Please note: you will need to submit an online application to the University of Portsmouth plus an application for funding to the SCDTP. For more details, visit the SCDTP website

When applying to the University, please quote project code: SDTP5740121.