Fred Cooper

Research Fellow

I’m a researcher and historian working on past and present relationships among loneliness, culture, gender, the social and psy sciences, public health, feminism, and environment. Completed in 2018, my PhD research was a genealogical exploration of medical discourses on women’s work/life balance in the mid-twentieth century, as part of the Wellcome-funded project Lifestyle, Health and Disease: Changing Concepts of Balance in Modern Medicine. In attempting to understand the discursive heft that loneliness had in specific post-war anxieties about domesticity and lifestyle, far too many questions were left unanswered: hence the nature of my current work.

With Manuela Barreto, Mark Jackson, Charlotte Jones , Ann Grand and Helen Keen, I co-ordinate the Centre’s beacon project on loneliness, which has three overlapping strands:

– Engaged research on student loneliness on the University of Exeter Streatham and Penryn campuses. This aspect of the project works with student co-researchers to further understanding of determinants and experiences of loneliness at university, and to think about how to reconfigure existing structures – e.g. teaching, societies, the library – to promote community, belonging, inclusion, and solidarity.

– Ongoing work with the WHO Regional Office for Europe on youth loneliness in the region, with particular reference to the cultural contexts which condition experience and frame interventions.

– Creative collaboration on original performances with local artists and the Northcott Theatre. This project brings academic and artistic knowledge and creativity into constructive proximity, co-designing new work at the same time as finding and testing new ways of working and creating. The end product will be a performance which invites audiences to think about loneliness in unfamiliar ways.

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