PEOPLE – PhD Students

Bojana Daw Srdanovic

15 August 2019

About me

I gained my BA in Humanities with Philosophy and Creative Writing at the Open University, and my MA in Theatre Practice at the University of Exeter. My MA dissertation focussed on how theatre produced with and by learning disabled artists can both reproduce and challenge stereotypical views on people living with learning disabilities. The interest in this subject arose from my work with ROC Creative Torbay, an arts project working with people with learning disabilities.

I joined the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health in September 2019 as a PhD candidate.

My research

Shaped by ableist histories and practices, theatre produced with and by learning disabled artists occupies an interesting cultural position. Due to various cultural and political factors, such theatre is habitually labelled as ‘amateur’ and ‘curative’, effectively positioning it as lesser than professional, ‘proper’ theatre. Such judgements not only belie the artistic value and rigour much learning disabled theatre demonstrates, but also perpetuate stereotypical views on people living with learning disabilities.

For my current research project I will collaborate with a company of ‘mixed ability’ theatre makers, investigating how practices can be changed in order to challenge and disrupt the assumptions and unhelpful binaries affecting their work.



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Túllio Maia

15 August 2019

With a background in both Biology and Anthropology, my research will consist of a multispecies ethnographic approach on the correlations among viruses, mosquitoes, and humans in the context of vector diseases in Sergipe state, Brazil. Thus, I aim to disentangle this more-than-human network centrally composed by the mentioned triad of beings – or entities – as they unfold in unsuspected connections: multiple artifacts and equipment, blood samples, sentinel and non-human host species, chemical reagents, lab instruments, documents, politics, legal decisions, among others that might emerge during the fieldwork.

This research proposal is part of a collaborative and multidisciplinary agenda concerning the understanding, mapping, and surveillance of vector diseases in Sergipe. It counts on the fellowship of the Federal University of Sergipe (UFS, Brazil) through the Laboratory of Entomology and Tropical Parasitology (LEPaT), the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology (GMBio), and their institutional connections.

Mosquitoes and their borne viruses, these troubling species, will be Ariadne’s thread through a conceptual labyrinth whose arrival point seems to be the generic and vastly explored idea of “viral threat”. Attentive to the shortcuts of this labyrinth, I will try to reach a new understanding – or even the transcending – of a “viral threat” perspective. This delegates me the hard task of considering these species – or entities – as “more-than-humans” with “significant otherness” while they are responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the world – most of them considered as “less than humans” in global capitalist geopolitics. By following scientific practices and viral ecologies, also their (dis-)continuities with policy makings, prevention campaigns, and promotions of health, this proposal is an effort to overcome the usual warlike narratives concerning arboviral contexts.

 



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Helen Keen

15 August 2019

Helen will begin her PhD in autumn 2019.

Her research will look at loneliness and social needs as experienced and represented by autistic people, focussing on a qualitative, nuanced, study addressing the little-understood social needs of autistic people. This work will focus on loneliness, and involve novel engaged research carried out in collaboration with partners from the neurodivergent community



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Raawiyah Rifath

30 May 2019

Raawiyah began her PhD research in April 2019. Raawiyah’s research is concerned with the asylum process faced claimants basing their claims on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOaGI) in the United Kingdom. By using an interdisciplinary approach of law and psychology, it aims to mitigate the difficulties faced by these asylum seekers during the asylum process by incorporating their specific vulnerabilities to create a reformation to the current standard of proof through engaged research.

In 2017, the UK Home Office granted only 25% of asylum seekers, basing their claims on sexual orientation, refugee status. This is a low number compared to other countries, for example, Canada which granted 97% of asylum claims based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The 75% refused by the UK were at risk of being sent back to a country where they may face persecution based on their sexual orientation. When a claimant flees forms of persecution and arrive into the UK, they are often placed in detention centres. Some asylum seekers have been detained in excess of two years and several have attempted suicide due to deteriorating mental health. It has been reported that SOaGI asylum seekers face threats and violence when placed in accommodation by companies such as G4S and Serco who are contracted by the UK Home Office. Her research will investigate a more efficient standard of proof to reduce the time spent in these detrimental environments.

The evidence of SOaGI asylum seekers being placed in unsafe environments is an example of a lack of understanding of their vulnerabilities and needs by the UK Home Office. This can also be said in terms of the burden of proof placed on SOaGI asylum seekers. The current standard of proof in the UK, to qualify for asylum, is that the claimant must ‘establish their case to a reasonable degree of likelihood’ that they have a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted’ on the basis of one of five characteristics. Alongside, a ‘real risk’ must be present in relation to non-refoulment. It has been reported, in practice, the burden of proof placed on SOaGI asylum seekers is higher than a ‘reasonable degree of likelihood.’ Her research proposes that SOaGI are unlike other protected characteristics due to its deep-rooted self-identification. It has been established that current asylum laws incorporate SOaGI, however, this research is concerned with the appropriate levels of evidence that is expected from an SOaGI asylum seeker in accordance with their particular needs.  Her research proposes a shift in how these characteristics are understood, due to their fluid nature and root in self-identification, which will inform the requisite level of evidence for an SOaGI asylum seeker.



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Kazuki Yamada

27 April 2019

I hold a BSc (Hons) in Life Sciences specialising in Biomedical Science (2015), and an MA in Ageing & Society (King’s College London, 2016)—an interdisciplinary degree in gerontology. My MA research engaged Filipino professional caregivers caring for older people in London and investigated how these carers’ own expectations of ageing for themselves and their families back home were shaped by this transnational caring experience.

From 2016 to 2017 I worked with the London secretariat of HelpAge International, a non-governmental organisation advocating for the equity and rights of older people throughout the world. With HelpAge, I primarily supported the Department of Policy, Advocacy, and Communications towards developing the Age Demands Action campaign with particular focus on developing syntheses of academic and grey literature; campaign performance evaluations and indicators; and campaign toolkits.

Subsequently moving to Geneva, Switzerland, I began work with the World Health Organization’s Department of Ageing and Life Course. Primarily engaged with research synthesis, knowledge exchange, and communications, I support the development of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030), the WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, and the Platform for Population Ageing.

In January 2018 I began a dual PhD on later life sexuality funded by the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland (Australia). As a part of the QUEX Institute for Global Sustainability and Wellbeing, my research project is affiliated with the Wellcome-funded Rethinking Sexology project at Exeter, and the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at Queensland.

Highlights of my career to date

As an early career researcher, I have benefited immensely from working with the World Health Organization towards achieving their vision of healthy ageing for everyone, everywhere. Being involved in their foundational work during the early years of the Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health 2016-2020, especially around ageism and age-friendly environments, has been instrumental in developing my interest in the role of normative work, conceptual frameworks, and definitions of what counts as ‘knowledge’ and ‘evidence’ within the contemporary global health landscape.

My research

My project aims to contribute to an understanding of why ageing as sexual decline became a dominant way of understanding the relationship between sexuality and the life course. I am supervised by Professor Kate Fisher and Dr Jana Funke at Exeter, and Emeritus Professor Peter Cryle and Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens at Queensland.

I trace shifts in understandings of the sexual older person across the intellectual genealogies of the (Western) sciences of sex and ageing from the mid-nineteenth century onwards to understand how scientific thought has contributed to present-day Western stereotypes of sexual ageing. Within this, I pay particular attention to how sociohistorically specific models of sexual temporality operated as conceptual preconditions for the scientific formulation of diverse and often contradictory theories of sexual ageing. Ultimately, my research develops a basis for critiquing contemporary sexual ageism in health research by demonstrating its reliance on one, sociohistorically contingent version of the sexual life course as a normative definition of how sexuality exists in time.

I am excited by the opportunity to be associated with the Wellcome Centre, whose research themes of transforming institutions and health across the life course particularly resonate with my project’s goals.

Something about me you can’t Google!

In a past life I was a choral singer (bass) competing at international level.



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Jessie Stanier

27 April 2019

While I predominantly have a background in philosophy, I have always had an interest in interdisciplinary research. In the final year of my BA in Politics & Philosophy at the University of Exeter, I started reading about phenomenology, philosophy of time, and embodiment. After dabbling in journalism and copywriting, I decided to pursue this growing interest across the channel in Belgium.

There I studied for an MA in Philosophy at KU Leuven, for which I wrote a thesis on phenomenology and ageing.

I joined the first cohort of PhD students at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health in September 2018.

Highlights of my career to date

It was a major highlight to chair the organising committee of the 2019 Postgraduate Medical Humanities Conference at Exeter, working to provide a friendly and inclusive environment for students to share their interdisciplinary research.

I have been lucky enough to be working alongside Rachel Purtell on a pilot project about patient experiences of hospital, and to be exploring avenues for engaged research with various community partners about experiences of transition in later life.

Naturally, starting at WCCEH has been another big highlight!

My research

My PhD project is a transdisciplinary phenomenological study of ageing and older age. While I am reading philosophical and gerontological texts as part of my research, engagement with ageing communities will overarch and inform the phenomenological work.

The aim of my research is to collaborate with various publics affected by the lived realities of ageing, in order to shed new light on normative determinants of ageing and how they affect lived experiences and possibilities for older people.

Something about me you can’t Google!

I love rock-climbing so you can often find me at the Quay climbing centre, trying to convince people to get out on that lovely Dartmoor granite or extolling the virtues of the pink tricam.



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Alex Smalley

27 April 2019

About me

I have a background in the physical sciences and have spent the last 13 years communicating complex concepts to a range of national and international audiences. Following an undergraduate degree which focused on atmospheric and oceanic physics, I worked for Defra, private consultancy and BBC News before joining the University of Exeter in 2011. In addition to my PhD research with the Wellcome Centre, I currently lead the science communication activities on two large pan-European grants, BlueHealth and SOPHIE—both investigating the links between aquatic environments and health.

My research

My PhD is exploring how immersive digital experiences of the natural world can affect well-being. The study is focusing on understanding how nature, culture and technology can combine to enhance psychological health. It will take the first steps in developing a therapeutic intervention for people who face significant barriers to visiting ‘real’ natural environments, and consider how such a therapy might also foster greater connections with nature. More details are available on the Virtual Nature project page and at virtual-nature.com.



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Zaina Mahmoud

27 April 2019

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying medical sciences and psychology. I moved to Exeter to undertake the Graduate LLB degree and undertook a dissertation examining the legal requirement of consideration for contract formation in light of the proposed Directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content. Upon completion of this qualifying law degree, I pursued an LLM in Intellectual Property Law, with my dissertation focussing on a comparative legal analysis into European and American morality concerns within the biotechnological patent regimes as related to human germline genetic engineering. I am excited to integrate my academic interests and apply them to my PhD project.

Highlights of my career

I am very excited to have the opportunity to undertake my PhD in such a way that will inform the publics involved in surrogacy from an interdisciplinary perspective and ensure all actors within surrogacy arrangements are protected and empowered.

My research

I will be undertaking an examination of surrogacy regulation in the UK as compared to California, taking into account the experiences of surrogates in both jurisdictions, in the hopes of proposing a legal framework that would be fit for purpose here in the UK. It will include a combination of comparative legal doctrinal research with qualitative empirical research through an exploration of the lived experiences of surrogates and would-be-surrogates.

Something about me you can’t Google!

Cats hate me (but we’ve agreed to negotiate).



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Rebecca Johnson Bista

27 April 2019

Academic background

I have a background in both humanities and social sciences which underpins my transdisciplinary approach. For my first degree I studied English at Christ Church, Oxford. I have two masters degrees: an MA in South Asian Area Studies from the School of African and Oriental Studies, London and an MPhil in Women’s Studies from Trinity College, Dublin. Subjects I’ve covered span from language studies (Urdu) through film (Hindi cinema), psychology, anthropology, international development, law, and employment to medical sociology, politics (South Asian and Middle Eastern), and literature.

Before joining the Wellcome Centre as a PhD student in 2018 my career included working for Routledge (academic publishing), the Labour Party (at HQ for 1997 general election) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Kathmandu, Nepal. I’ve also been a teacher in Egypt, and an employment/management editor and journalist published in the Irish Times and the Financial Times as well as in business and HR magazines such as People Management. For the last nine years I have been ill and semi-housebound with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which has led to the topic of my research.

Career highlights

Career and life have always been intertwined in my experience. Highlights include attending the Labour victory party in the Royal Festival Hall after an intense few months’ campaign organising for the 1997 election; making an important contribution to the 1990s’ abortion debate in Ireland through my MPhil research and leader articles on the contest over ‘rights’ in the Irish media; receiving an award for feature writing at the 2000 Work World Media Awards; participating in a community listening project in New York to inform plans for rebuilding Ground Zero after 9/11; and helping in the work to support and resettle Bhutanese refugees left languishing in camps in Nepal for more than 15 years.

Becoming one of the first cohort of WCCEH PhD students is another significant milestone that combines life – in the form of my experience of chronic illness – with work – research on the cultures of ME/CFS.

My research

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), remains at present an ‘unexplained illness’. Currently without confirmed biomarkers for diagnosis, its aetiology and processes remain mysterious, its epidemiology difficult to define, its diagnostic criteria contentious and its treatments even more hotly debated and mired in conflict. The impacts of its chronicity – often lasting decades or a lifetime – and of its uncertain status on the lives, identities and relationships of patients and their families are still poorly understood and there are as yet no culturally focused studies of contemporary ME/CFS in aesthetic production, media and popular discourse. Even its relationship to the historical disease label ‘neurasthenia’ is contested and snared in debates around ‘hysteria’, psychosomatics, and pathologies of gender, and the divisions between psychiatry and ‘physical’ medicine.

However, the next five years could prove to be something of a tipping point in interest and progress in ME/CFS research. There is a growing body of biomedical research coming on-stream, including ‘big data’ studies, identifying potential ME/CFS biomarkers for the first time. As of September 2017, substantial NIH grants have been awarded in the US for breakthrough biomedical studies and the establishment of centres of research excellence on ME/CFS. In 2014 the NIH ‘Pathways to Prevention’ workshop on ME/CFS stressed the importance of studying aspects of individual identity and relationship, perceptions, communication and stigma, to combat the current ‘disconnect’ in understandings between patients, researchers and clinicians – elements of ME/CFS which my research hopes to explore.

My research aims to unpick the ‘messy’ and ‘political’ aspects of ME/CFS cultures and some of their historical bases and seek new forms of evidence that could be used to bridge the gaps between different conceptions and understandings of ME in part through examining narratives of ME/CFS written by patients, practitioners and others. I will also be engaging with patients and patient organisations. In trying to pinpoint some of the disconnects in understanding I will be looking at coherence – and lack of coherence – in narrative and discursive constructs around ME/CFS, including which aspects of existing frameworks are valorised and ways in which patients attempt to make sense of their condition and form a coherent illness identity through life-writing and other narratives.



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Veronica Heney

27 April 2019

About me

Following an English and History BA at the University of Oxford, I worked from 2015-2017 in the Social Sciences Applied to Healthcare Improvement Research group (SAPPHIRE) at the University of Leicester as a Communications and Academic Writing Assistant, and also took on a role helping the Department of Health Sciences complete an Athena SWAN application. While in Leicester I also held a volunteer role as a communications assistant for Pride Without Borders, a group which provides support for local LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. I completed my Gender Studies MA at the University of Sussex in September 2018, which included dissertation research taking an interdisciplinary approach to gendered medical professionalism. During my time at Sussex I was also fortunate to work with Dr Catherine Will on an engagement project around statins and decision-making and to work with the university’s I Heart Consent Campaign, delivering consent workshops to students..

 

My research

Self-harm is very common within the population, but is only rarely represented in fictional media such as novels, television, and films. Moreover, within those representations that are available, the presentation of self-harm is often stereotypical or limited. This makes the topic of and narratives about self-harm a particularly interesting and important site for the study of the relationship between stories and experiences. This project therefore will examine which cultural representations of self-harm in literature, film, and television are currently available to people in the UK who self-harm, and how those individuals experience or understand those representations, particularly in relation to their own self-harm and how they might discuss their self-harm. The project will particularly explore how these representations and their interpretation are impacted by gender, race, class, and sexuality.

These questions will be explored through an interview study with 20-30 people with experience of self-harm, and through analysis of the various texts discussed in those interviews. The project’s research questions, methods, and analysis have been and will be agreed upon in discussion with an advisory group made up of people with experience of self-harm, exploring how co-production and engaged research might be relevant within Literary Studies.

You can find out more about the interview study, and about what it would mean to be involved with the study, here: https://wcceh.org/fictional-representations-of-self-harm/

In September 2019 I discussed my research and the topic of narratives of self-harm at a Time to Change event held on World Mental Health Day. If you’re interested in my research you can watch the presentation back here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3b06XaEmKA

 

Publications

Heney, V. – Book Review: Why Do We Hurt Ourselves?: Understanding Self-harm in Social Life and Self-injury, Medicine and Society: Authentic Bodies The Sociological Review (September 2019) https://www.thesociologicalreview.com/book-review-self-injury/
Heney, V. – The Interpretive Difficulties of Self-Harm in “Sharp Objects” Cost of Living (October 2018) https://www.cost-ofliving.net/the-interpretive-difficulties-of-self-harm-in-sharp-objects/

 

Contact me

Twitter: @VeronicaHeney

Email: vh291@exeter.ac.uk

 

 



PEOPLE – PhD Students

Kelechi Anucha

27 April 2019

I am a PhD candidate working on the relationship between time and care in contemporary end of life narratives, as part of the Wellcome Trust-funded research project Waiting Times. My supervisor is Prof Laura Salisbury.

I studied for my BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Leeds and recently completed my MA in Modern Literary Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London. My MA dissertation considered post-human visions of the body in late-twentieth century speculative fiction. As part of the ‘Mediterranean Imaginaries’ Erasmus program between Goldsmiths and the University of Malta, I also recently examined the aesthetics of ‘late style’ in JM Coetzee’s As a Woman Grows Older.

Why I am associated with the Centre

My current project focuses on contemporary end-of-life literature and visual cultures, paying particular attention to representations of impeded, disrupted and alternate temporalities. I am interested in how advances in techno-science have reshaped the way in which the dying body is experienced and culturally represented from 1990 to the present. My research is informed by various disciplines, including literary theory, critical medical humanities, phenomenology and theories of the post-human.

Something about me you can’t Google!

I am interested in sound art and the ways technology can be used to extend the limits of the human voice. I am part of NYX, an electronic drone choir that looks to re-shape the role of the traditional female choir, testing the limits of organic and synthetic modulation to explore the entire spectrum of collective voice as an instrument. NYX is supported by Arts Council England, commune, Ableton, The Pickle Factory and The Quietus.



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