When the Physician Becomes an Apostle

The Persona of the Catholic Colonial Doctor in Interwar Belgium and the Belgian Congo

In: Social Sciences and Missions
Maarten Langhendries KU Leuven Belgium Leuven

Search for other papers by Maarten Langhendries in
Current site
Google Scholar
Kaat Wils KU Leuven Belgium Leuven

Search for other papers by Kaat Wils in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



Missionary medicine, especially healthcare offered by Catholic missions, is a rather neglected field in the study of colonial medicine. In addition, the potential of analytical tools such as the circulation of knowledge or attention for professional identities has not been fully explored yet. In this study of physicians in the Belgian Congo, we argue that a new professional identity – or persona – of the Catholic colonial doctor arose as a result of Catholic religious doctrine, missionary politics and biomedical developments. The persona of the mission’s main healthcare provider, with a strong commitment to curative medicine, was a metropolitan professional identity shaped by older missionary narratives. In colonial day-to-day reality, however, where tensions between physicians, missionaries and state officials abounded, this discursive identity proved difficult to maintain.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 222 125 10
Full Text Views 12 5 0
PDF Views & Downloads 37 15 0