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Centre for Medical Humanities

CMH Postgraduate and ECR Network

“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 Fraser Riddell.

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.

Rebecca Bitenc


Department: English Studies

Supervisors: Professor David Herman, Professor Patricia Waugh

Title: Losing One's Self: Dementia in contemporary life writing and fiction


Rebecca A. Bitenc is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of English Studies at Durham University. Synthesizing ideas from the medical humanities, narrative theory, research on life writing, and other fields, her thesis on "Losing One's Self: dementia in contemporary life writing and fiction" (working title) explores how, in contemporary literature, the alleged loss of self in dementia is expressed across different modes, media and genres - with a particular focus on the ethics of literary form. Rebecca’s PhD project is funded by the AHRC.

In 2012-13 Rebecca convened the Medical Humanities Postgraduate Discussion Group, and in May 2013 she co-organized with Dr Naomi Marklew the first Postgraduate Medical Humanities Conference on “Understanding Human Flourishing.” This conference was sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, by Durham's Centre for Academic and Researcher Development, and was supported by Durham University's Centre for Medical Humanities.

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.

Ben Kasstan


Department: Anthropology

Supervisors: Dr Claudia Merli, Dr Tessa Pollard, Dr Yulia Egorova

Thesis title: 'Hard to Reach': An historiographical and ethnographic study of health in Jewish Manchester

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Contact Details

Centre for Medical Humanities
Caedmon Building
Leazes Road

Tel: +44 (0)191 33 48277