PhD Candidate: Contingency and Meaning in Trans People and their Relatives

  • WO
  • Tijdelijk
Radboud University


Are you fascinated by the human search for meaning? Are you driven to deepen our understanding of experiences of contingency?  And do you wish to gain a profound insight into the existential questions of trans people and their relatives? If so, then come and join this project as a PhD Candidate!

You will study the search for meaning of trans people and their relatives and its impact on experienced quality of life, thereby contributing to the provision of spiritual care for this group. 'Trans people' is used as an umbrella term for people whose gender identity, either binary or non-binary, does not correspond with their birth-assigned gender. You will perform and analyse in-depth interviews with trans people in different stages of their transition and with their relatives, acknowledging that transitions can be non-binary, heterogeneous or even reversed. You will investigate both personal and collective aspects of trans people’s search for meaning, aiming to advance theoretical insight into the experience of contingency induced by the incongruence between one's experienced or expressed gender and assigned gender. Based on the results of your research, you will develop recommendations for the provision of spiritual care for trans people and their relatives.

In your research, you will focus especially on the role of religion and spirituality. Although conservative religious traditions tend to criticise decisions and treatments regarding trans people, Christian and Jewish liturgy and rituals have been developed to celebrate gender transitions, and prayer and Quran recitation have been sources of resilience for transgender Muslims. The search for gender identity often co-occurs with the interpretation or re-interpretation of religion and spirituality, which can become sources of meaning and support.

Your research project has a strong interdisciplinary focus, aiming to combine insights from religious studies, theology, gender studies and behavioural medicine. You will be appointed at the Department of Empirical and Practical Religious Studies. Your research will be embedded in the Center for Religion and Contemporary Society (CRCS) and you will be part of the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH). Two of your supervisors are specialised in empirical research on religion and care (Nienke Fortuin and Hans Schilderman), one is a clinical psychologist at the Center of Expertise on Sex & Gender of the Radboud university medical center (Chris Verhaak), and one is specialised in queer theology (Mariecke van den Berg). You will devote 75% of your time to the research for and writing of your PhD thesis. The remaining 25% will be spent on training and teaching.


  • You have a Master's degree in religious studies, theology or a related field and have an evident interest in spiritual care.
  • You are skilled in empirical research methods and have experience with conducting in-depth interviews.
  • You have an interdisciplinary research attitude.
  • You have an excellent command of written and spoken English and Dutch.
  • You have an inclusive attitude and affinity with the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • You have good collaborative and communication skills.
  • You embrace teamwork and can also work independently.


You will be embedded in the Department of Empirical and Practical Religious Studies at Radboud University's Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies. Staff and students in the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies reflect on the great challenges of our time, exploring concepts, belief systems and worldviews. In this way they provide philosophical and religious context to societal debate and contribute to the analysis and solution of major societal challenges. The faculty has over 180 staff, organised in eight academic departments and four support departments. Our academics collaborate in six research centres and teach more than 1,000 students. 
Our staff and students are committed. The lines of communication are short and each individual student and staff member is given ample attention. We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity contributes to the quality of teaching and research. We welcome staff whose diversity in background and perspective contribute to the diversity of our faculty. As an employer, we are constantly investing in the professional development of our staff. 

You can find more about our mission and vision on the 'About PTRS' page.

Radboud University
We are keen to meet critical thinkers who want to look closer at what really matters. People who, from their expertise, wish to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. This ambition unites more than 24,000 students and 5,600 employees at Radboud University and requires even more talent, collaboration and lifelong learning. You have a part to play!


  • Employment for 0.8 (5 year contract) - 1.0 FTE (4 year contract).
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,541 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,247 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be employed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract) or 3.5 years (5 year contract).
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 30 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.
Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Meer informatie

For questions about the position, please contact Nienke Fortuin, Assistant Professor of Empirical and Practical Religious Studies, at Alternatively, you can contact Hans Schilderman, Professor of Empirical and Practical Religious Studies, at