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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Professor Sarah Atkinson, BA Anthropology, MSc Human Nutrition, PhD Anthropology

Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41871
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: 408

(email at

Deputy Head of Faculty, Social Science and Health, for research operations

Professor of Geography and Medical Humanities

As professor of geography and medical humanities, my academic attention is primarily characterised by interdisciplinary encounters with contemporary issues of medicine and health informed by my background in anthropology, nutrition and public health policy. My experience prior to working at Durham University was in policy implementation both as practitioner, consultant and researcher in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and India. Since 2008, I have been an associate director of the Durham Centre for Medical Humanities, a centre of interdisciplinary research across all faculties of the University and with extensive international academic and non-academic networks. My own research seeks to tease out and interrogate the assumptions underlying mainstream health-related policies and practices and particularly in relation to non-clinical settings. Topics addressed in this way include how the concept of wellbeing is interpreted, how care and responsibility for care are understood, constrained and located and how engagement with the creative arts offers a transformative potential for health and wellbeing, both as personally experienced and as politically conceptualised. Currently I am beginning to examine how the emergent moral landscapes of ‘new immortalities’ manage and imagine the borders of bodies and how associated ‘imaginary worlds’ may both demand and distance caring practices in a globalising world. 

Research Groups

Research Interests

  • Critical Medical Humanities
  • Spaces and practices of care of the body
  • Arts, health and wellbeing

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2015: Invited key-note speaker at the International Workshop: Medical humanities: Exploring advantages and disadvantages in an emerging interdisciplinary field, University of Lund, Sweden. :
  • 2014: Invited speaker: The rise of well-being in public health, WHO Copenhagen.:
  • 2014: Invited member: WHO international steering group, the cultural determinants of wellbeing, WHO Copenhagen:
  • 2014: Invited speaker, seminar series on Politics of Wellbeing:
  • 2014: Invited speaker: History, humanities and global health, WHO Geneva.:
  • 2014: Key-note speaker: Annual Conference of the Nordic Network for Health Research within Social Sciences (NNHSH), Helsinki, Finland:

Selected Publications

Journal Article

Chapter in book

  • Atkinson, S. Mixing and fixing: managing and imagining the body in a global world. In: Herrick, C. & Reubi, D. Global health and Geographical Imaginaries. London: Routledge; 2017:54-71.
  • Atkinson, S. Care, kidneys and clones: the distance of space, time and imagination. In: Whitehead, A., Woods, A., Atkinson, S., Macnaughton, J. & Richards, J. The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press; 2016:611-626.
  • Atkinson, S. Health and Wellbeing. In: Richardson, D., Castree, N., Goodchild, M., Weidong, L., Kobayashi, A. & Marston, R. The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell/AAG; 2016.
  • Atkinson, S & Vaguet, A. La Mondialisation à la Loupe des Géographes de la Santé. In: Fleuret, S. & Hoyez, A. Santé et Géographie: Nouveaux Regards. Economica, Paris; 2011:15-37.

Edited book


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Related Links

Selected Grants

  • 2015: Bringing wellbeing to community (£87250.40 from ESRC)