PhD Research Fellow

Opportunity for fully funded PhD Research Fellow position (3 year-scholarship) to study the cross-cultural patterns of nomadic pastoral cooperation, social networks, inequality, and the evolution of political complexity in nomadic societies

Research Professor Marius Warg Næss (High North Department, Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research) has been awarded an ERC consolidator grant called COMPLEXITY: From small-scale cooperative herding groups to nomadic empires – a cross-cultural approach (Grant agreement ID: 101043382, This project will add to other successful past and current research projects carried out in the High North Department of NIKU.

We are now looking to fill 1 fully funded PhD Research Fellow position (3 year-scholarship) to study the cross-cultural patterns of nomadic pastoral cooperation, social networks, inequality, and the evolution of political complexity in nomadic societies. In principle, we favour candidates interested in establishing long-term field sites in Africa and Asia. However, we are happy to consider proposals for alternative field sites. Travelling expenses will be covered by the project.

Project Abstract

The main question of this research project is: can political complexity evolve from small-scale cooperative groups? The predominant view of nomadic empires – that they are caused by contact with agricultural neighbours – cannot explain how pastoralists transitioned from small, kin-based cooperative herding groups to complex hierarchical groups with the power to conquer their sedentary neighbours. By perceiving cooperative herding groups as the building blocks of nomadic societies, this project aims to develop a theoretical explanation of pastoral political organisation ranging from acephalous societies in Africa to imperial confederations in Inner Asia. While cooperative herding has been documented, previous studies have been based on single case studies. Thus, a cross-cultural investigation of pastoral cooperation is lacking. There is also a view that livestock, as the primary source of wealth, limits the development of inequalities, making pastoralism unable to support complex or hierarchical organisations. However, evidence indicates that environmentally induced livestock losses exacerbate rather than limit the development of wealth inequalities. COMPLEXITY rectifies this situation through three steps. First, by combining a systematic literature review of the ethnographic material with information in the eHRAF World Cultures database, COMPLEXITY will cross-culturally document the prevalence of cooperative herding groups. Second, by using a pluralistic methodology, e.g., experimental economic games, observations and interviews, COMPLEXITY will comparatively investigate to what degree pastoral cooperation is structured by evolutionary factors – such as kinship, reciprocity, social network structure, and norms – and investigate how cooperation affect pastoral performance and inequality. Third, by combining empirical data with modelling techniques, COMPLEXITY investigates whether cooperative herding groups can be considered prototypes for more complex organisations.

More about the project can be found at

Candidate profile

Required skills

  • Interest in long-term fieldwork with nomadic pastoral groups (approximately six months to one year) and the application of multiple methodologies, including interviews, experimental economic games, social network analysis, and ethnography.
  • Interest in and basic knowledge of quantitative methods and R/Python.
  • Degree in Biology, Anthropology, Experimental Psychology, Natural Sciences, or any scientific-related field.
  • Proficiency in English.
  • Teamwork and collaborative skills, willingness to travel together and collaborate in multiple steps of study design, data analyses, and publications with other students, postdocs, and senior staff in the research group.
  • Good scientific writing skills.

Desired skills

  • Experience with fieldwork among nomadic pastoralists, developing countries, and challenging conditions.
  • Previous fieldwork related experience from Africa or Asia.

NIKU offers

  • Salary grade starting at 500 800 NOK per year
  • Good insurance schemes
  • Membership in the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund (Statens pensjonskasse), if eligible. Information is available at
  • A friendly and academically strong work environment

Place of work

NIKU’s office in Tromsø, Norway.

Applications must include the following

  • CV
  • Cover letter explaining why you are interested in the position and how you would approach the topic from a methodological and theoretical perspective. Maximum length: 3 pages.
  • Two reference letters


The desirable starting date is 2023; however, applications are considered until the position is filled.

For any further information please contact:

Research Professor Marius Warg Næss
Phone: +47 90721907

To apply

Send me an e-mail with all documents or, preferably, use the official job listing page:


Nomadic Herding: A Sustainable Way of Life

Join us as we explore the world of nomadic herding, from the traditional knowledge and skills used by nomadic herders to the economic and environmental benefits of this unique way of life. Discover how nomadic herding can be a sustainable and valuable part of the modern world.

Like so many else, I’ve been experimenting with ChatbotGPT from I’m completely blown away by the possibilities and the level of content that it manages to create.

To test it, I asked it to give me some catchy title suggestions for a blog post about nomadic pastoralism. One of the suggestions was “Nomadic Herding: A Sustainable Way of Life”!

So here it goes; I think it was pretty good but see for yourself:

write a 800 words blog post titled “Nomadic Herding: A Sustainable Way of Life”

Nomadic herding is a traditional way of raising livestock that involves moving from one place to another in search of pasture and water. This way of life has been practised for thousands of years and continues to thrive in many parts of the world. As a result, nomadic herders have a deep connection to the land and a wealth of traditional knowledge and skills to manage their animals and sustain their way of life.

But what makes nomadic herding a sustainable way of life? To answer this question, it’s essential to understand the unique characteristics of nomadic herding and how it can benefit the environment and local communities.

One of the critical characteristics of nomadic herding is the use of large, mobile herds of animals. This allows nomadic herders to move their animals to different areas in search of fresh pasture and water, and it will enable the land to recover after the animals have grazed. In addition, this type of mobility helps to prevent overgrazing and soil erosion and helps maintain the land’s health.

In addition, nomadic herders have a deep understanding of the land and its resources, using this knowledge to manage their animals and grazing patterns. This allows them to avoid damaging sensitive areas, such as wetlands and riverbanks, and to maximize the productivity of the land. Nomadic herders also use various traditional herding techniques, such as rotational grazing, to manage their animals and maximize the benefits of grazing.

Another critical aspect of nomadic herding is its role in conserving biodiversity. Nomadic herders often move their animals to different areas in search of pasture and water, which can help preserve their animals’ genetic diversity. In addition, nomadic herding can help to maintain the diversity of plant and animal species in a given area. This is because nomadic herders often graze their animals on land unsuitable for agriculture, which can help preserve natural habitats and ecosystems.

Nomadic herding also provides significant economic and social benefits to local communities. Nomadic herders provide food, fibre, and other products essential to many rural areas’ economies. In addition, nomadic herding can help create jobs and support local businesses. Nomadic herders also play a vital role in maintaining cultural traditions and identity, and they can help preserve a given area’s cultural heritage.

Despite the many benefits of nomadic herding, some challenges must be addressed to ensure its sustainability. One of the biggest challenges is the loss of pasture and water due to the expansion of agriculture, mining, and other forms of development. This can make it difficult for nomadic herders to find suitable grazing land for their animals, leading to conflict with other land users. In addition, nomadic herders must deal with the challenges of climate change, which can lead to changes in precipitation patterns and other impacts on the land.

To address these challenges, it is essential to support nomadic herding and to recognize its value as a sustainable way of life. This can be done through various measures, such as providing access to education, healthcare, and other services for nomadic herders.

This took me 5 minutes (or rather, it took 5 minutes to come up with the query to ChatbotGTP)… After that, I used Grammarly to freshen up some of the writing!

The ramifications are mind-blowing!!