culture + environment creating health + wellbeing engaged research

Robin Durie

Centre Academic


I wrote my PhD at Edinburgh University on the phenomenology of time and of our consciousness of time.

My first post was at Staffordshire University, where, in addition to teaching philosophy, I was also fortunate enough to set up interdisciplinary post-graduate programmes for artists and designers who wanted to conduct research in philosophy alongside their creative practice. Editing and translating a volume of Bergson’s work on Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which included the notorious debate in 1922 between the two great thinkers at the Société française de philosophie, led me to collaborate with a group of philosophers and theoretical physicists on fundamental problems of time and temporality. This work in turn led me complexity theory.

I moved to Exeter in 2002, where I was fortunate enough to co-found the Health Complexity Group at the Peninsula Medical School. In 2005, I took up a position in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter, where I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Political Theory.

I teach in the area of the history of political thought, where, amongst other things, I lecture on the classical political thought of Plato, Aristotle and the Ancient Greeks; the contemporary political theory of communities; and post-stucturalist responses to Marx and Marxism. With the Health Complexity Group, I conduct transdisciplinary research into the enabling conditions for transformational change in the health and well-being of some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the country.

Highlights of my career to date

Many of the highlights of my research career have arisen from transdisciplinary collaborations. Based on my foundational research into the ontology of complexity theory, I had the opportunity to collaborate on a wonderfully transdisciplinary research project on swarm robotics, the aim of which was to determine whether it might be possible to create a society of robots which had the potential to develop their own distinctive “robo-culture”.

I have been lucky enough to collaborate with fellow researchers, healthcare professionals and community partners in the remarkable Connecting Communities (C2) programme. Based on primary empirical research done by Katrina Wyatt, the first-hand professional experience of Hazel Stuteley, and my own research on complexity theory, I co-designed C2 with Hazel Stuteley back in 2004. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with many inspiring residents in communities across Cornwall and Devon, and subsequently throughout the rest of the UK, and have seen the astonishing transformations that many of these communities have been able to achieve in their health and well-being.

In 2012, I secured funding with Katrina Wyatt from the RCUK’s Catalysts for Public Engagement programme, the aim of which was to co-create a culture for engaged research within the University. Our experiences of leading the Exeter Catalyst, and collaborating on C2, have played a formative role in our participation in the WCCEH.

The research work I will be undertaking in the Centre

I’m fundamentally interested in the connections between the underlying dynamics of the three main processes which will inform the work of the Centre: those of our transdisciplinary research collaboration; of the public engagement with our research; and of the emergence of healthy publics.

I hope to be able to participate in developing the theoretical and philosophical aspects of the Centre’s work, as well as contributing to the development of the Centre’s public engagement activities and its culture of engaged research.

Something about me you can’t Google!

I was fortunate enough to be able to support Colin Steele in the recording of his “comeback” album with his great Quintet, Even in the Darkest Places. Colin played the very first versions of some of the tracks from the album at my 50th birthday party at The Bridge in Topsham – one of the pieces even received its title from a between-songs heckle!