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Centre for Medical Humanities

CMH Postgraduate and ECR Network

Next Meeting: Talk by Dr James Stark (University of Leeds) - Endless Possibilities of Rejuvenation

When: Tues 22 May, 5 - 7pm

Where: The Collier Room, Hild Bede College, Durham

CMH Seminar Series - Embodied Symptoms | Thinking, Feeling, Imagining | Neurosocial Explorations | Everyday Possibilities

The PG and ECR Medical Humanities Network invites you to its next meeting to hear and discuss a talk by visiting scholar James Stark. All are welcome, new members and old, and refreshments will be provided. Please contact Natalie Riley, if you are interested in attending.

Next Meeting - Topic for discussion: Everyday Possibilities

Call for participants and papers

When: Wed 14th March, 5.30-6.30pm

Where: The Williams Library, St Chad’s College, Durham

CMH Seminar Series - Embodied Symptoms | Thinking, Feeling, Imagining | Neurosocial Explorations | Everyday Possibilities

The PG and ECR Medical Humanities Network will soon be having its first discussion group of the new year! The theme of this discussion group will be Everyday Possibilities within the medical humanities and related disciplines.

Intersecting with a broad range of critical inquiries, the theme speaks to topics including (but not limited to):

  • Scales, times, and landscapes in the clinical encounter
  • Tools, technologies, prostheses
  • Cultures of care
  • Material objects in healthcare
  • Everyday possibilities in literature, visual arts, and film
  • Interdisciplinary research methodologies

We will be meeting to discuss research related to these strands of inquiry, but we are also looking for one or two volunteers to provide an informal provocation or presentation on an aspect of their own research which speaks to the theme of this session (c. 5 minutes). Please reply to Natalie Riley, if you are interested in presenting.

This seminar is the first of a series. In our second session, to be held later this year, Dr James Stark (University of Leeds) will be joining us to give a talk on Endless Possibilities of Rejuvenation, so watch this space!


“The Postgraduate Networking Group got off to such a great start tonight. I was delighted with how well it was attended and with such a great mix of departmental representation and discipline. There is clearly an appetite for this.”

Co-Director of CMH, Prof Jane Macnaughton, first network meeting, October 26th 2015

Download the Introduction Presentation given by Prof Jane Macnaughton during the Medical Humanities: Postgraduate/ ECR Networking Event on October 26th, 2015.

The Centre for Medical Humanities Postgraduate and Early Career Network exists for sharing ideas and promoting interdisciplinary connections between postgraduate researchers affiliated with the Durham Centre for Medical Humanities and the Wolfson Research Institute’s Belief, Understanding and Wellbeing strand. We also welcome any postgraduates and ECRs who feel their work connects with CMH or who are interested in our themes or approach to interdisciplinarity. Research being undertaken by members of the group seeks to analyse our expectations of medicine, and the relationship between medicine and our broader ideas of health, well-being and flourishing. The Network offers an opportunity for postgraduates and early career researchers to meet each other in a supportive environment, to share expertise and develop skills in interdisciplinary research, and to discuss their work with affiliated academics at Durham University. Regular workshops and reading groups are held throughout the academic year. Previous themes include

Our meetings are open to all postgraduate students and early career researchers. If you are interested in joining the CMH Postgraduate and Early Career Network, or for more information, please email convenor Natalie Riley.

Meetings are held regularly throughout term-time, and advertised on the CMH Events Page

Current Students:

Monir Ahmed


Department: Theology and Religion

Supervisors: Professor Christopher Charles Holland Cook and Dr Jocelyn Bryan

Title: A cognitive spiritual approach to mental health and well-being


Human cognition plays a significant role in everyday life. For example, the way we think affects the way we feel and behave (Beck, 1967, 1975). In addition, spirituality appears to be an integral part of our existence, our ‘humanness’. Research suggests that there is a positive relationship between mental health and spirituality (Bergin, 1983; Witter, et al, 1985). Although existing studies show the importance of spirituality in mental health, there is a lack of an holistic approach integrating psychological processes and spiritual factors. This approach could help better explain the mental health and well-being of a culturally diverse population as well as minority faith communities. The fundamental theme is that human beings, irrespective of their race, faith, ethnicity and culture, grow and develop emotionally and spiritually through belongingness and connectedness. Thus, it is likely that cognitive processes (thoughts), which are linked with well-being (i.e., the way we feel and behave), as well as spiritual factors (i.e., ‘wholeness’, ‘connectedness’ of ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’), influence or affect the human mind and body. Therefore, the idea that ‘our thinking process, or the way we think, affects the way we feel and behave’ does not seem to be enough to understand and formulate psychological problems such as depression of culturally diverse groups of clients. It is therefore proposed that ‘our thinking and spiritual processes affect the way we feel, behave and integrate ourselves in society’. Well-being is thus considered to be related to both cognitive processes and spiritual factors. The research aims at designing and developing a holistic cognitive spiritual therapy (CST) model and discovering its effectiveness for spiritual issues/struggles, mental health problems of culturally diverse population including minority faith communities.

Roz Austin


Department: Geography and Medical Humanities

Supervisors: Dr Felicity Callard and Professor Sarah Atkinson

Thesis title: Voice-hearing, Emotions and Trauma


This project aims to examine the phenomenon of voice-hearing, which has to date received very little attention in geography, using empirical, conceptual, literary and historical methods. There are a variety of models that attempt to explain the voice-hearing experience. However, this project is particularly interested in using and analysing the model that the psychiatrist Marius Romme and the researcher Sandra Escher have developed over the past twenty-five years, which makes a link between voice-hearing and people’s experience of trauma. Taking Romme and Escher’s ideas as a point of departure, the project is based around an empirical study involving interviews with thirty voice-hearers, in which they have been asked about their experiences of voice-hearing and whether they link these to difficult events from childhood and adulthood.

Mary Coaten


Department: English Studies

Supervisors: Dr Angela Woods and Professor Sarah Atkinson

Title: Dance Movement Psychotherapy in acute adult psychiatry: a mixed methods study


My research involves an empirical mixed methods study of group dance movement psychotherapy in two acute adult mental health inpatient settings over a ten-week period. It will explore the therapeutic mechanisms of DMP, through a study of the qualitative dynamics and symbolic/metaphoric aspects of movement during the group DMP process; thus enabling a better understanding of the disorders of embodiment during acute mental distress. This could in turn lead to the further development of clinical interventions.

People’s experience of psychosis is poorly understood and there is ‘vigorous debate about whether it is meaningful or useful to think of these experiences as symptoms of mental illness.’(Cooke, 2014). These are common experiences that can often be a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation and calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages (op cit 2014). Each individual’s experiences are unique and require to be viewed in different ways.

There is an emerging field of philosophically-led research into embodiment highlighting the importance of understanding severe mental distress, for example schizophrenia, psychosis and bi-polar disorder, in terms of the ‘lived-body’ experience (Fuchs, 2015,Hye-lin 2015, Ratcliffe et al.,2014, Sass and Byrom, 2015).When people are experiencing severe mental distress they often report disorders of embodiment (Stanghellini et al, 2016). For example, experiencing time as speeded up or slowed down, having a sense of déjà-vu, having premonitions about oneself and loss of relationship to being in the present moment (Stanghellini et al, 2016). He argues that the body can be perceived as ‘de-animated’ in schizophrenia, meaning a person experiences ‘living at a distance from themselves’, where other people’s bodies are also experienced as lifeless too. The body subsequently becomes a de-temporalised one, with the possibility for spontaneous movement diminished and the sequencing of events in everyday life disrupted.

These are significant symptoms, and in turn can effect how the person moves in and relates to their environment; yet these important experiences are often minimised, seen as difficult to assess, non-measurable and unscientific (op.cit, 2016). In addition, Woods et al. (2015) highlighted the high prevalence of reported somatic features in individuals experiencing auditory hallucinations, where scarce attention is paid to these features in clinical interventions. They argued that further development of theoretical models linked to ‘body-schema’, should inform clinical practice.

There is a small but growing body of evidence demonstrating that Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) can be effective in reducing symptoms in schizophrenia/psychosis (Cochrane Collaboration, 2012). There is however very little understanding or investigation of why this might be the case(Martin et al, 2016, Rohricht and Priebe, 2006). Developing a better understanding of DMP in this context by investigating the qualitative dynamics of movement and the symbolic and metaphoric aspects of the DMP process, could lead to a greater understanding of psychosis from a lived body experience perspective, which in turn may help to inform clinical practice.

Symbol and metaphor are particularly important in the dance movement psychotherapeutic process in addition to the qualitative dynamics of movement. In DMP the symbolic function of movement as a non-verbal metaphor is central to the praxis. Movement metaphor can be seen as a form of nonverbal communication providing valuable insights into anindividual’s patterns of behaviour, beliefs and relationships. Examples of movement metaphor are :’jumping out of one’s skin’,‘falling to pieces’, ‘falling apart’, ‘holding yourself together’,‘out of touch’ and, ‘quick to jump to conclusions.’

According to Koch (2011), non-verbal processes are difficult to assess scientifically. Interestingly it is often through movement that, ‘the un-speakable or the not-yet-to-be-verbalized becomes denser, expresses itself in nonverbal symbols and metaphors and searches to break through to the verbal.’ (op.cit).In severe mental distress this symbolic-representative function or the capacity for rhythm and resonance is impaired, and therefore this merits further investigation in terms of the possible therapeutic mechanisms during the DMP process.

Kathryn Edwards


Department: Geography

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.

Lydia Harris


Departments: History and English

Supervisors: Dr Helen Foxhall-Forbes (History) and Prof Corinne Saunders (English)

Title: Abortion, Contraception, and Unwanted Pregnancy: The Reproductive Decisions of Women, c 1000-1200


Although abortion and contraception were generally censured and outlawed by the medieval church, the presence of reproductive control in medical manuscripts is difficult to ignore. As medicine was a largely domestic practice in the middle ages, most forms of pharmaceutical and remedial care were executed with a large degree of privacy; so too must we view reproductive control within this frame of domesticity. My research focuses on redefining how we may view medieval reproductive control within this domestic sphere and seeks to understand how frequently and how easily women were able to cease their own, or other's, pregnancy. Examining medical, literary, and other non-normative texts, my research aims to not only understand gynaecological health within the high middle ages, but also use reproductive control as a microcosm for understanding the private, social lives of normal women.

Niall Hodson


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.

Kwanwook Kim

Department: Anthropology

Supervisors: Dr Andrew Russell, Professor Jane Macnaughton, Dr Sue Lewis

Thesis title: “Hands up” : Phenomenological meanings of Female workers’ Bodily Performances from Developing to Developed industrial period in Korea


My project basically takes the form of an intense and in-depth ethnographic enquiry into the pathology of ‘social stigma’ inscribed in female workers’ bodies in Korea. Especially, I investigate call centres where currently being expanded rapidly and also reported as sweatshops characterised by ‘low wage and long hours labours’ and high rates of irregular workers. Alongside describing the labour circumstances and its possible effects on workers’ health, I attempt to understand female workers’ lived experiences entangled with health related behaviours without sacrificing them to biomedical logic. Simultaneously, I pursue the history of Korean industrial development from labour-intensive industries (e.g. producing wigs, shoes, clothes and electronics) in 1970s to information and communication industries in 2010s. The transformation will be analysed how it affects female workers’ bodies in terms of health and well-being, e.g. from tuberculosis, intoxication and amputation accidents in 1970s to depression, smoking and obesity in 2010s. Theoretically my research is based on phenomenological explanation of how socio-cultural values and working conditions embody female worker’s body and mind. Throughout the perspective of seeing the body as a physio-psycho-sociological assemblages, I pursue the women’s bodily performances in their life-world. Ultimately, I focus on how the embodied performing limit their health and liveliness and also investigate the process of their struggles to overcome the limit. This purpose is represented as one sentence, “Hands Up”, which contains three different cultural meanings like ‘humiliation’, ‘protest’, and ‘self healing stretching exercise’ in Korea.

Michael Koon Boon TAN


Department: Geography & Health Studies

Supervisors: Professor Sarah Atkinson, Professor Jane Macnaughton

Thesis title: The Caring Artist: Animating liveliness, Ageing body and Flourishing In Nursing Home (Working Title)


Place matters to the health and wellbeing of older adults. The meaning attached to nursing homes and its practice has categorised and affected how ageing bodies are perceived, treated and cared for. In its preoccupation with physical caring, nursing homes have delimits resources and possibilities for residents to flourish. Such circumstance is found to undermine its residents' life quality and well-being. Informed by such understanding, this research project explores how an arts-health practitioner might offer residents a pathway to mitigates the unfavourable effect of their sedentary lifestyle and situate space for flourishing.

Through a novel approach that amalgamates arts-health practice with social scientific qualitative case study, the research aims to:

1) Understand the contribution of an arts-health practitioner in a nursing home by studying the impact of a participatory visual art programme on residents.

2) Reflect on the role of an arts-health practitioner in a nursing home and the dynamic process involved in engendering, shaping and optimise participants' flourishing potential and wellbeing.

Emma Linney


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.

Janice Metcalfe


Department: Geography

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.

Fraser Riddell


Department: English Studies

Supervisors: Prof. Simon James and Dr. David Ashurst

Thesis title: Music and Queer Identities in English Literature of the Fin de Siècle

Katie Ridley


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.

Peter Swan


Department: Geography

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.

Douglass Virdee


Department: English

Supervisors: Professor Patricia Waugh and Dr. Peter Garratt

Title: Narratology and cognitive poetics in memory theories of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy


This research project applies the analytical tools of narratology and cognitive poetics to memory theories in psychology and neuroscience. Contextualising development of the Mental Time Travel (MTT) heuristic in its literary milieu, it explores shifts in the way memory, time and space have been conceptualised as the locus for analysis of evolving connotations of time travel from the mid-late nineteenth century to the present. MTT is predicated on the General Abstract Processing System, which distinguishes between episodic memory (experiential memory from the point of view of a self) and semantic memory (knowledge of the external). In terms of its expression in literature, the time travel metaphor represents a narrative laboratory in which selves can be divided indefinitely, counterfactuals explored in person, and causality manipulated. The aim of the project is to assimilate the commonalities between psychological and philosophical theories of memory, narrative structuralism, and the division of personal and external time advocated by fin de siècle and early modernist thinkers, in order to understand what makes these structural heuristics so salient.

Nathan White


Department: Theology and Religion

Supervisors: Professor Christopher C.H. Cook and Professor Gerard Loughlin

Title: Resilience and Personhood: Christian Theology, Transcendence, and the Science of Human Adaptation


The concept of resilience has recently come to be used across a vast array of disciplines and fields of study and yet, until recently, there has been little critical thinking about it at a conceptual level. I suggest that a more sustained level of analysis on this topic is needed--one in which the theological undertones inherent in it are brought to the surface. To this end, I assess current understandings of psychological resilience from the standpoint of the social sciences. Then, using the hermeneutic phenomenology of Paul Ricoeur, I seek to explore the ways in which narrative understandings of the person shape and create the possibility of hope through human desire and the meta-narrative of the Christian faith. Finally, I consider the implications this study has, not only for the way in which the concept of resilience is understood, but also for how individuals face and overcome adversity.

Contact Details

Centre for Medical Humanities
Caedmon Building
Leazes Road

Tel: +44 (0)191 33 48277