Postgraduate Research Students
Medical Humanities Postgraduate Discussion Group (MHPDG)
This group exists for sharing ideas and promoting interdisciplinary connections between postgraduate researchers affiliated to the Centre for Medical Humanities.
Meetings are held regularly throughout term-time, and advertised on the CMH Events Page
Department: School of Medicine, Pharmacy & Health, Anthropology
Supervisors: Professor Jane Macnaughton, Dr Andrew Russell, and Dr Sue Lewis
Thesis Title: The Embodiment of working class history in the life stories of smokers in an ex-mining village in the North East of England
I am interested in:
- the embodied experience of smoking, with reference to the post-industrial history of the village, including loss of jobs, status, housing, population and political voice;
- experience of health and illness, with particular reference to ex-miners' occupational exposures and compensation claims, respiratory disease and tobacco use;
- social class embodied in individual lives and expressed through emotion.
Keywords: smoking - class - embodiment - lifecourse - narrative.
Supervisors: Professor Sarah Atkinson, Dr Rachel Colls
Thesis Title: Locating 'bodies' in pregnancy loss experiences
This research project aims to explore how individuals recall and narrate their experiences of pregnancy losses, with a particular focus on how aspects of 'bodies'/the 'bodily' can be drawn upon or excluded and recognition that a range of social-interaction contexts affect (enable, constrain, alter) such narratives. This research intends to explore the experience of 'pregnancy losing bodies', such as the life-long (but not static) stretch-marks retained from a lost pregnancy; the experience and meaning of onset lactation without a living baby to feed; and a range of memorial practices that are engaged in following the event of loss(/es).
This interest is based upon the premise that these aspects of pregnancy loss experiences are often absent from accounts yet constitute an important array of aspects vital to the meaning of the loss and experience of 'living through' and 'living out' a pregnancy losing body. Such an approach builds upon the wealth of work done on the body within geography whilst contributing to some underdeveloped areas (e.g. Longhurst's extensive work on pregnant embodiment does not consider in any great depth the experience of losing pregnancies) and draws upon interdisciplinary approaches (e.g. the medical humanities) and thematic-based areas (such as 'maternal studies' and 'death studies').
Department: English Department
Supervisors: Professor Corinne Saunders and Dr Richard Sugg
Title: Henry Oldenburg and translation at the early modern Royal Society
I am interested in the social networks of early modern science and in particular the roles played by patrons, translators and agents. Building on these interests, my research looks at the language, interpretation and translation of scientific texts in early modern England, examining both the strategies employed by individuals and institutions to garner reliable information from foreign and domestic sources, and how this information was reviewed, translated, and disseminated. A particular focus of my study is the role played by a number of polyglot intermediaries at the Royal Society - and its secretary, Henry Oldenburg, in particular - in translating, circulating, and disseminating scientific and medical ideas.
Supervisors: Professor Martyn Evans, Dr Angela Woods
Title: On Wonder - An inquiry into the Role of Wonder in Human Flourishing
In my study I intend to defend the conjecture that wonder is an important source of Human Flourishing. My inquiry is a philosophical one and is likely to touch on topics related to ethics, aesthetics as well as metaphysics. So far my work has been focussed on whether wonder is an emotion, an attitude or simply a state of mind. I have also explored the transfiguring quality of wonder and the possibility that some humans can outright refuse to wonder. Future studies may involve a closer look at our embodied nature and how this fits together with notions of our capability to wonder and live good flourishing lives.
Department: School for Medicine and Health
Supervisors: Professor Jane Macnaughton, Dr Andrew Russell, Dr Sue Lewis
Title: Agents of change: characterising and theorising the participatory arts practice of artists working in community settings, in initiatives promoting health and flourishing.
Over the past thirty years it has become increasingly common to find artists working alongside non-arts professionals in community interventions to catalyse change and flourishing, to build new or better pathways forward for community groups. In the light of the increasing use of these strategies in the UK, and using comparative work in Mexico City as a comparator, this study seeks to characterise and theorise this emergent, non-professionalised practice, and to explore in depth the mechanisms employed by artists in such interventions.
How does their 'practice' - including their approach and interactions with people, and any processes they may use - attempt to catalyse change?
To what extent does this practice derive from their creative skills and artist's perspective?
How much does it draw on social pedagogy or more generic health practice, or on their personal values and principles, or indeed their personal character or charisma?
What role does their creative background and artist persona actually play in this work?
Can we establish and characterise a core or common practice amongst the creative practitioners in these settings?
This study is both exploratory and descriptive. The methodological approach is interpretive, using a case study strategy. Guided by the principles of grounded theory, emergent themes will be identified, and using a multi disciplinary theoretical exploration to theorise elements of the practice, it will seek to develop a new interdisciplinary paradigm to accurately place this work.
Department: Applied Social Science
Supervisors: Dr Ian Greener, Professor Jane Macnaughton
Title: Health management, clinical knowledge and practice: how do managers and clinicians understand knowledge and judgement, and what are the implications of the differences?
This study seeks to understand why and how knowledge, judgement, practice and research are formulated differently between health managers and clinicians, directly addressing long-standing antagonisms between the two groups. It also hopes to address contemporary healthcare issues such as debates about healthcare management accreditation, and the nature of leadership in managerial and clinical training.
Supervisors: Professor Sarah Atkinson, Dr Sarah Curtis
Title: Negotiating Performance: Accountability and Monitoring Creative and Caring Practices for Wellbeing
This research project involves an in-depth ethnographic study of Pioneer Projects, a third sector 'arts for health' organisation in the initial stages of becoming a social enterprise. Pioneer Projects has a unique, holistic way of working which is potentially threatened by both corporate and state influences. This project is investigating the extent of any external influences on its way of working, and whether it has been able to utilise any particular tactics to resist any challenges to its ethos. Such challenges include increased demands for quantified evidence, and obtaining enough income to survive. Research looked at the organisation's day to day operation, the challenges it faces, and its various obligations to its stakeholders. It involved overt participant observation working closely alongside both participants and staff to investigate the relationship between the organisation and its participants, funders, the local community, and other stakeholders. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff, trustees and participants to build upon information obtained throughout the period of observation.Initial findings suggest that staff at Pioneer Projects have been able to negotiate with stakeholders and rework external demands into processes it feels it can work with; thus the organisation's ethos remains largely intact.
Supervisors: Dr Duika Burges Watson, Dr Bethan Evans
Title: The nourishment of widows: the role of food and feeding in the widow's 'return to life’
Anecdotal evidence from GPs and others suggests that some older widows experience dysfuntions in their food practices that go beyond bereavement's short-term perturbation of eating and digestion. Unlike older widowers, who tend to have been less socialised into a grasp of culinary skills, widows tend to be qualified by knowledge and experience to source and prepare food. Practically, widows know how to cook, but not -- typically -- how to cook/cater for one, particularly when that one is themselves. As a class, older lone widows therefore face particular problems in 'coming back to life' after bereavement.
Scholars have emphasised food's various connections with medicine, ritual (in moral, social and aesthetic meanings), and the construction of identity. The various potential influences on eating include age-associated changes, notions of entitlement, and crises of social status or self-affection. 'Nourishment' derives not only from the materiality of food but also from everything it takes for an encounter with food to have a beneficial effect. This study will elaborate the hypothesis that older, lone widows' experiences of food and food practices have consequences for their flourishing, and will explore widows' various strategies and practices. A multidisciplinary approach, embracing not only 'nutrition' but also the metaphysical dimensions of eating, has potential to contribute to the design of diverse life-enhancing interventions, from health policy to creative cultural forms.
Supervisors: Professor Sarah Atkinson, Professor Clare Bambra
Title: From Surveillance to support: An ethnographic exploration of the role that social enterprise plays in shaping the experience of ‘employabilty’ programmes amongst workless men.
As a consequence of the crisis of the welfare state and of the opening of welfare provision to both the private and voluntary sectors, the role of social enterprises in the procurement and delivery of welfare to work intervention programmes has steadily increased. There is a rich corpus of academic work that has documented the rise and consolidation of these third sector organisations which marry philanthropy with business models in order to create more caring and non-bureaucratic spaces from which to empower disadvantaged individuals and communities (Amin, 2009). However, rather less attention has been given to how social enterprises construct the landscape of the service encounter where policy is translated in to practice. Indeed, qualitative research evidence to date which suggests that the social enterprise form offers a more caring approach, when delivering employability intervention programmes, is largely anecdotal. This project will contribute towards addressing this gap.
Through the use of ethnographic techniques this doctoral research will examine the day-to-day activities of Acumen Community Enterprise Development Trust Ltd, a social enterprise that is successfully trading as a business, with a social aim, through delivering learning and employability contracts for the Department of Works and Pensions, Learning Skills and local authorities. Framed through the lens of the service user, paying particular attention to the role of space and place in the constitution of subjectivity, and through the use of critical theory this projects explores whether this mode of service delivery offers a more embodied approach to social inclusion that takes in to account social structures and life course variables.
Department: English and the Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Supervisor: Professor Corinne Saunders
Title: Challenging the Authority of Identity: The Spaces of Memory in Medieval English Romance.
The thesis examines late classical and medieval memory theories which employ striking visual and spatial concepts and compares this to the effect of memory on the reception and experience of reading romances. This addresses areas such as audience expectation and aspiration, the social function of romance, and the creation of various memorial fictions of societies, ideals and narratives. The depiction of memory and work of memoria within romance narratives is discussed in detail, including the ways in which the benefits of an agile memory are emphasised through the virtue of Prudence alongside patterns of Fortune and temporal change. Similarly, romances can also highlight memorial challenges and the subsequent dangers when memory is under-utilised or actively ignored.
The thesis also examines the difficulties of memory and its destabilising effect upon current identities, figured in romances through disguises and disturbing moments of subjective "crisis". Forming a dynamic continuum, romance "spaces" can recall the past, (de)stabilise the present, and question the future. Texts are drawn from popular and courtly romances from the late medieval period, with particular emphasis upon English narratives on account of their variety and social contexts, including narratives by the Gawain-Poet, Chaucer, and Malory which offer unique versions of romance memorial work.
Department: Geography (with links to Engineering)
Supervisors: Professor Clare Bambra, Professor Sarah Atkinson, Dr Steve Robertson
Title: Post-industrial landscapes: Meaning, Appearance and Wellbeing in Post-Industrial Towns
Place-shaping’ has been proposed as a key method by which Local Authorities should promote resident wellbeing. Traditional approaches to the place-wellbeing relationship have identified the beneficial impact that employment, housing, education, transport, and health services (contextual factors) have on health. Place and wellbeing, however, consist of many other characteristics and may be relative to the individual. This results in the possibility of many additional relationships between the variables.
Examples of such relationships seem to be demonstrated by ‘therapeutic landscapes’. These identify a positive correlation between particular landscapes and wellbeing (Ulrich, 1979, 1984) (Moore, 1981) (Maas et al, 2006) but consider small-scale settings rather than one’s everyday environment. They also only acknowledge place’s positive impact on wellbeing and do not explain these relationships, although hypotheses include an innate human need for nature (Biophilia), restoration arising from pleasant aesthetic experience, or the impact of the individual’s attachment to place (Topophilia).
Using Easington Colliery as a Case Study, I aim to further investigate the concepts of place and wellbeing and the relationship between them. I wish to determine if and for whom place can improve (or worsen) wellbeing and what influences this mutual relationship? I will then consider whether place-shaping policy can use place to improve wellbeing in ways not currently recognised.
Supervisors: Professor Patricia Waugh, Professor Corinne Saunders
Title: Losing One's Self: Dementia in Autobiography, Biography and Fiction
Dementia, with world-wide increasing incidence rates, has come to the fore of public awareness. Its alleged loss of self raises a number of ethical and thus social and political issues. Etymologically denoting a person who is "out of their mind", dementia today designates a specific syndrome and, together with other mental disorders, has undergone a process of medicalisation. My question is how the alleged loss of self in dementia is expressed in literature, more specifically in life-writing and in other fictional genres - such as poetry by people with dementia, the opera The Lion's Face, as well as recent examples of graphic memoirs about Alzheimer's.
My main focus will be on the ethics of literary form. This will include a close analysis of imagery and language, narrative structure and narrative perspective. I will be drawing on narratology and literary theory but also on medical, psychological and philosophical literature. Literary representations of dementia crystallise the debate about how poetic language and the question of self interacts. They feed into wider debates about the limits of representation in language, about narrative construction of identity and alterity, about genres and their reception history and the literary history of the madness motif.
Supervisors: Dr Andrew Russell and Dr Peter Collins
Title: An Ethnography of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Uruguay
Chronic diseases are significantly on the rise in most developing countries.The experience of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Uruguay is taken up as a case in point. Sensorial Anthropology and the ethnographic approach provide the framework through which to explore complex realities, relationships and meanings that accompany "chronicity" from the perspectives of those diagnosed, their family and friends, their health professionals and the governmental bodies that design and implement related policy.
This thesis contributes a detailed analysis of the embodied and social experience of COPD in relation to the broader economic and political inequalities which exist in Uruguay and globally. It begins with the breathing and breathless body, examines healthcare diversity through contextualised narratives, critically examines the issue of oxygen-therapy and discusses how an anthropological approach can provide fresh ideas and questions concerning the prevention of and care for this complex disease.
Supervisors: Dr. Peter Collins and Yulia Egorova
Title: Reiki: An Anthropological Analysis
In this research project my primary aim is to discover the meaning of Reiki, a complementary therapy rediscovered in Japan in the early 1900s, for practitioners, patients and healthcare professionals. Reiki is a form of treatment whereas the practitioner is said to channel a universal energy to the client through a hands on approach. I intend to draw on a number of methods in collecting relevant data, including semi-structured interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, and participant observation. I also plan to conduct an overview of Reiki literature, using a discourse analysis approach. I intend to achieve a better understanding of the ways in which orthodox medical settings accept and/or reject complimentary therapies, specifically Reiki, and the different types of rationale determining its reception within clinical settings. Additionally, I will be looking at cultural obstacles that might exist affecting Reiki's acceptance overall in Western society.
This research will be conducted in specific regions of the UK and US in order to generate a comparative data set, which will help distinguish any patterns of similarity and difference in the trajectory of this therapeutic practice within biomedicine, during a time when it is steadily establishing itself as a popular therapeutic practice in Western societies.