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Kaat Wils joins the Vossius Center for three months in March 2022 as a Research Fellow with the project '(Public) histories of therapeutic practices and the biomedical sciences'.

About the project

During my stay at the Center, I plan to continue my current research on the history of the therapeutic use of animal magnetism and hypnosis in 19th and early 20th century Belgium. The larger part of the primary research for this book project is finished and some of its results have been published (see underneath), but one of the ‘gaps’ that still awaits further exploration, is the Belgian-Dutch connection in this history (earlier research stays in Paris have allowed me to research the strong Belgian-French connections). Two instances of circulation of knowledge and therapeutic expertise in particular still need to be researched: the introduction of several Belgian doctors to animal magnetism in the 1820s by the Dutch magnetizer Wessel Van der Lee, and the contacts between late 19th century Belgian (and French) hypnotherapists with their Dutch peers Albert Willem Van Renterghem, Frederik Van Eeden and Arie de Jong.

About the researcher

I am a full professor of modern European cultural history at KU Leuven, with a specialisation in the history of the biomedical and human sciences, the history of gender and sexuality and the history of education. Trained as a cultural historian at the Université de Louvain, KU Leuven and Brown University, I wrote my dissertation on positivism, ideology and the human sciences in 19th century Belgium and the Netherlands (defended in 2000). During my doctoral work, my interest broadened towards medical history and gender history, as is testified by three volumes I co-edited shortly afterwards on the gendered body, on degeneration theory and on the medicalisation of the human sciences. Between 2001 and 2011, my main teaching and research appointment was within the field of history didactics, the learning and teaching of history. As of 2011, I was given the opportunity to return to my original field of research. Since then, I have worked on questions concerning the transnational circulation of knowledge, medicine and the visual representation of the human body, scientific personae, and the ideological and religious contexts of the production and dissemination of knowledge. In this process, my research focus broadened to include the 20th century and the history of colonial medicine. My current personal research deals with the history of the therapeutic uses of hypnosis, including boundary disputes between lay healing practices and established medicine, and disciplinary boundaries between psychology, psychiatry and neurology. I am the current president of the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health.