Leverhulme Research Leadership Award PhD studentship: The Social Life of Law in Authoritarian Contexts

Key information

Deadline date
2 awards covering tuition fees at home or international rate & Maintenance of £15,609 for 3 years

Scholarship overview

The Leverhulme Research Leadership Award PhD studentship: The Social Life of Law in Authoritarian Contexts project offers two fully funded MPhil/PhD scholarships.

The studentship will contribute to fees and living costs and is paid for 3-years. This studentship is open to new SOAS students only. Students who are already enrolled on a research degree programme at SOAS are not eligible to apply.

The studentship is offered as part of the Leverhulme Research Leadership Award ‘The Social Life of Law in Authoritarian Contexts.’ This is an exciting opportunity for ambitious and talented graduates who want to do research in socio-legal studies or legal anthropology in India. It provides the opportunity to create and pursue your own project on law and society, as part of a major new research project.  

The premise of the larger project is that authoritarian states attempt to change the nature and composition of their societies through different means, including through a use of the law. The project aims to understand what the local life of these laws are and how communities respond to these laws.  

PhD projects

There are two PhD projects available as a part of this project: 

PhD1 will study the social life of anti-terror laws. The doctoral scholar will conduct qualitative research into investigations and prosecutions of cases involving questions of national security and terrorism.

The student will use socio-legal/ethnographic methods to explore how these laws are perceived by local state and community actors and how they understand the idea of ‘terrorism’. The student may also study how impacted individuals and communities respond to these laws. The research will involve fieldwork in India and analyses of data produced by this research.  

PhD2 will study the social life of laws that prohibit inter-community relationships through the idea ‘religious conversion’. This doctoral scholar will conduct qualitative research into legislations that effectively prohibit and/or criminalise certain types of inter-community relationships.

The student will use socio-legal/ethnographic methods to understand how these laws are being used; the effect of these laws in communities; and how affected individuals, families and communities respond to these laws. The research will involve fieldwork in India and analyses of data produced by this research.  

In addition to completing a doctoral thesis derived from this research, the doctoral scholars will have the opportunity to contribute to publications jointly authored with the research team for the project. The doctoral scholars will have the opportunity to organise workshops and conferences and to co-edit publications that arise from these research events. 

These outlines are intended as starting points. We expect candidates to develop them in their own ways, or to offer alternative ideas within the broad remit of the project. If you wish to discuss potential alternative projects before you apply, please contact Dr Mayur Suresh (ms148@soas.ac.uk). 

The PhD will be supervised by Dr. Mayur Suresh with support from other members of the SOAS academic staff and will benefit from being part of a lively PhD program at SOAS.  

What the Studentship includes

Studentship will cover the full fees (home). If an international student is chosen, there will be an additional fee remission funded by SOAS to cover the difference between home fees and international fees. Additionally, the student will be given a maintenance allowance of £15,609 per annum for 3-years.

Some international travel and fieldwork expenses will also be covered by the grant.  

Visa and visa related fees are not covered under the terms of the grant. 

Principle Supervisor:  Dr. Mayur Suresh 

Project Details 

Subject Areas/Keywords: Law and Legal Studies, Legal Anthropology, Gender Studies 

Candidate Criteria 

You will have a strong academic record with good bachelor's and master's degrees in a relevant discipline. The project aims to be multi-disciplinary, drawing on theory and methodology from law, socio-legal studies, sociology, anthropology and gender studies. We welcome applicants from these disciplines or from any other relevant area of study. 

You will have a demonstrable commitment to research in India, excellent writing and presentation skills, a willingness to carry out independent fieldwork in India and be able to demonstrate flexibility and creativity. Language skills (Hindi and a working knowledge of language used in proposed field site) would be an advantage. 

Candidate Assessment  

  • Candidates for the scholarship will submit a 2500-word description of how the applicant plans to conduct the research including proposed field sites, methodology, main research questions, main theoretical frameworks. In the same document candidates should also submit a selected bibliography (which will not be included in the word count). 
  • Candidates who are shortlisted and invited to interview (online) will put together a short 15-minute online presentation to the research team followed by a brief question and answer session. Details of this will be sent with the interview invite. 
  • Candidates will also be assessed on academic merit by an Advisory Panel who may conduct an online interview with the shortlisted candidates. 

Scholarship Application Deadline 

  • Scholarship applications must be received no later than 12:00 PM (UK local time) on Monday 15 April 2024
  • You must submit a complete application of your programme as soon as possible and then submit an application for this scholarship, in order to be considered. Please note that complete applications for admissions can take up to 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of the year. You should be prepared to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods.  
  • You will need to have a firm offer for your programme by the time the Scholarship Panel meets. 
  • Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. 

Scholarship Application Procedures 

Further information about PhDs at SOAS University of London is available from: doctoralschool@soas.ac.uk  

There is a two step procedure:  

Guidance for applying for applying to Research Programmes and information on what makes an application can be found here for How to Apply 

Your research proposal should take account of the project title and outline above, and indicate how you would aim to carry out the research. In your personal statement, please indicate why this project interests you and in what ways you are qualified to undertake it 

  • Apply for the Scholarship by 12:00 PM (UK local time) on Monday 15 April 2024

You must apply for this scholarship via the Online Application Form.


The scholarship shortlisting and awarding period is expected to completed by the end of April 2024, at the earliest. Successful candidates will be contacted first and once all awards have been allocated, the unsuccessful candidates will be notified.


To discuss potential projects before you apply, please contact 

For advice on how to apply to a PhD, please contact:

For enquiries concerning the scholarship, please contact: