Postdoc "The Afterlife of Colonial Medicine"

Postdoc "The Afterlife of Colonial Medicine"

Published Deadline Location
31 Oct 3 Dec Leiden

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The Institute for History at the University of Leiden invites applications for:

1 Postdoc Position (1.0 FTE): The Afterlife of Colonial Medicine

Job description

The postdoc will become part of the ERC-funded project “Human Subject Research and Medical Ethics in Colonial Southeast Asia”, led by dr. Fenneke Sysling. The expected starting date is 1 March 2024 and this is a postdoc position for 3 years.

Project description:
This project looks at ethical practices in the history of medicine in colonial Southeast Asia, with the Dutch East Indies, British Malaya and the American Philippines as comparatives cases. Physicians in this period (1890-1962) pursued research on all sorts of diseases, from leprosy to beriberi. Local people took part in this research as research subjects. This meant that they provided blood or urine, were examined, and received drugs of which the effects and side-effects were not yet fully known. This project analyses these practices to understand the moral world of doctors at the time, including the complicated relationship between dangerous experimentation and best treatment for the patient.

We are looking for a candidate to focus on the afterlife of colonial medical research. The candidate will study medical data, concepts, material and/or photographs and how they moved from the colonial period into the postcolonial period. Possible case studies include the use of concepts or data (such as peoples’ height) in current medical or human biology studies, the presence of human remains from the colonial era in museums in and outside Southeast Asia and colonial medical photography collections. One possible focus is the way in which colonial data were laundered – decontextualized from their original (unethical) provenance – for re-use in the postcolonial era. Alongside historical research, the postdoc will reflect on the question of how to deal responsibly with the legacy of colonial medical research today.

Key responsibilities:
  • Conducting research on the afterlife of colonial medical research
  • Writing three articles to publish in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Participation in meetings of the project team;
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Co-organizing workshops and conferences;
  • Co-organizing the publication of an edited volume.


Leiden University


  • A PhD degree, preferably in the history of Southeast Asia and/or history of science and medicine or a related degree in Science and Technology Studies or Ethics, combined with experience with historical research. If the degree is not yet obtained at the time of application, a statement by the applicant’s supervisor should confirm that it will be obtained by time of appointment;
  • Familiarity with (the history of) Malaysia, the Philippines and/or Indonesia;
  • One or more relevant publications;
  • Strong research and writing skills;
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of an (international) team;
  • Excellent command of English. Knowledge of Malay/Indonesian/Tagalog is an asset.

Conditions of employment

Diversity and Inclusion
Leiden University’s Institute for History embraces diversity and seeks candidates who will contribute to a climate that supports students and staff of all identities and backgrounds. We strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented and/or marginalized backgrounds to apply.

Terms and Conditions
We offer a full-time position for initially one year. After a positive evaluation of the progress of the thesis, personal capabilities and compatibility the appointment will be extended by a further two years. The salary will be up to €4332 gross per month for a full appointment (scale 11, step 0 in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. More at


Universiteit Leiden

About our organisation
Since its founding in 1575, Leiden University has acquired an international reputation for excellent teaching and research. With its staff of over 800, the Faculty of Humanities provides 26 Bachelors and 27 Masters programmes for over 7,200 students based at locations in Leiden and The Hague.
The Institute for History is the home of a vibrant community of researchers and lecturers with outstanding track records and successful in attracting national and international research grants.

Under the label 'Global Questions, Local Sources' scholars affiliated to the Institute combine a deep knowledge of global interactions and of specific localities, regions and states in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. They use comparative, connective and entangled approaches and resort to qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.

All researchers of the Institute for History are connected to one of the six research specializations: The Unification of the Mediterranean World (400 BC - 400 AD), Collective Identities and Transnational Networks in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 1000-1800, Political Culture and National Identities, Colonial and Global History, Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence, and History and International Relations. For more information on the Institute for History:


  • Postdoc
  • Behaviour and society
  • €4332—€5929 per month
  • Doctorate
  • 14247



Leiden, 2312TT, Leiden

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