In her PhD project, Jolien Gijbels studies the role of ideological conflict and compromise in 19th-century Belgian medicine. Her research provides answers to two research questions. Firstly, she examines the clashing ideological views of Catholic and liberal physicians, and their willingness to bypass ideological disagreements within scientific exchange. The second research question concerns professional identity formation. How and when did physicians develop both common and ideologically specific professional and/or scholarly identities? To tackle both questions, her research focuses on the medical domains of obstetrics and gynecology where ideological division was clearly at play. The central preoccupations within these disciplines – childbirth and the proper functioning of women’s reproductive system – confronted religious physicians with the sacrament of baptism and Christian morality. By investigating the religious and ideological dimensions of medical debates, her PhD project offers a well-informed historical perspective to actual bioethical discussions concerning abortion, reproduction or the boundaries of medical research in which religiously and/or philosophically inspired divides are at stake.

In her postdoctoral research, Valérie Leclercq is researching medical knowledge about human consciousness and the human self in the 19th century, and questioning the influence of polarizing political or religious ideologies in the construction of such knowledge.