My research spans medical anthropology and science and technology studies. Currently I am writing an ethnographic monograph bridging the phenomenologies and practices of working upon psychedelic experiences on the one hand, and experiences labelled ‘psychotic’ on the other. I received my PhD in 2012 in socio-legal studies from the University of Bristol, analysing formations of knowledge and authority in mental health self-help and mutual aid collectives. Since then I have been researching ‘consciousness cultures’ more broadly, including the resurgence of overground and underground interest in the use of drugs to produce psychedelic experiences. From 2013-2015 I spearheaded qualitative research as part of a clinical trials team studying psychedelics at Johns Hopkins University, and I have since taught at New York University and the University of East London. In 2008, I co-founded the Authority Research Network, an early-career collective of academics based in the UK, Ireland and Brazil.
While I am happy to work with reviews on any topic, my particular interests lie in the areas of:
- Politics of knowledge, evidence and authority,
- Spirituality, mysticism and mythology,
- Altered states and extreme/limit experiences, and
- Algorithmic life and computational psychiatry.
I am happy to work with any kind of review format, and am particularly interested in reviews that experiment with form and incorporate reflexivity. I welcome interviews with authors, book forums with multiple reviewers, and single reviews of multiple books on the same topic.
See what Tehseen has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Chase Ledin is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society at the University of Edinburgh. His project explores the cultural implications of ‘post-AIDS’ discourse in the Global North since the mid-1990s. In particular, the project draws on archival materials, moving-image productions, public health campaigns, and related ephemera to interrogate the evolution of the ‘end of AIDS’ representational politics across biomedical, social, and cultural platforms. His interdisciplinary scholarship cuts across medical humanities, science and technology studies, queer cultural studies, and film studies. Outwith research, Chase is interested in the development of queer sexual health education and policy in Scotland and the movement to standardise HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use across the United Kingdom. His creative work contributes to ongoing projects to historicize and archive HIV/AIDS narratives and includes critical writing about polyamory, the ethics of sexual health education, and the cultural histories of sexual objects.
See what Chase has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Nicole Xuan Chen
Nicole is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her project centres on a sudden cluster of biofictions published within a decade or so from the end of last century that feature Virginia Woolf as the main protagonist-subject. Under the broad framework of experimental life-writing, she studies them thematically via such lenses as illness narrative, image-text intersectionality, and the modernist culture of conversation. She is on the reader panel for James Tait Black Prize Biography Section and is the editor and chief Chinese translator of the anthology Literary Medicine: Brain Diseases and Doctors in Novels, Theatre, and Film. She is a research member at the Bio-Health Narrative Research Centre at the Southern Medical University (SMU, PRC), and engages with the design of volunteer training programme for the Bio-Health Story Sharing Centre at SMU. Before her PhD programme, she taught both Literary Translation to English Language undergraduates as well as English Language to medical students at SMU.
In 2021, Nicole initiated a collaborative project between The Polyphony and the Bio-Health Narrative Research Centre, SMU, in the hope of creating intercultural dialogue and introducing leading-edge concepts and theories of medical humanities to China. She is particularly interested in discussing ideas for articles that address following areas:
• Life-writing pieces exploring language’s possibility to write illness and pain
• Stereotypes and stigmas of illnesses across cultures
• Humanities disciplines in healthcare education curriculum
• Narrative psychology and narrative therapy
After studying music at Newcastle University, Andy completed a PhD on music and mental wellbeing, cementing his interest in arts and health – and mental health in particular. This led to a postdoctoral role at Durham University on the ERC-funded Knowledge for Use project, which blended health-related case studies with philosophical research. Collaborating with world-class experts across disciplines was something of a ‘baptism of fire’ but it unearthed deeper interests in objectivity, evidence and epistemic justice. In January 2022, Andy took up an ethnographer role on Healthier Working Lives at King’s College London, again working with an interdisciplinary team to develop novel embedded co-design methods for understanding the experiences of older care workers. He is especially keen to explore cultural and creative approaches to generating new forms of knowledge, and in developing ways to amalgamate diverse knowledge types to inform policy and practice. More importantly, Andy plays the bass guitar quite badly and has a tabby cat called Winston, who sings.
Anna Jamieson is an interdisciplinary cultural historian specialising in visual and material cultures of the late eighteenth century. Awarded her PhD in cultural, social and institutional responses to female insanity from Birkbeck, University of London, in 2020, Anna is currently a Birkbeck Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Researcher, working on women’s mental illness, eighteenth-century private madhouses and asylum tourism. Later this year, she will undertake a John Rylands Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, for a project titled ‘“A Touch of the Blue Devils”: Women, Mental Health and Self-Care in England, 1750- 1850’. With an interest in gender and the history of psychiatry, patient agency and consumerism, dark tourism, spectacle and enfreakment, Anna is particularly keen to publish articles that address the lived experience of illnesses, spaces of healthcare and their stereotypes, and the intersections between medical humanities and material culture. Additionally, she is interested in forging ties between postgraduate and early career researchers from both clinical and non-clinical medical humanities backgrounds, and to publish pieces that address the methodological challenges of working within an interdisciplinary field.
See what Anna has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Jen Allan is a clinically trained doctor, writer, and academic with a background in the medical humanities and psychology. In 2020, she completed a MA in Health Humanities at UCL, for which her thesis examined languages of encounter between the living and the dead in the unspeakable catastrophe of mass death and disappearance. She is currently working as a junior clinical fellow in A&E, in addition to a part-time RA post with the UCL Grand Challenges Inquiry on the Case for the Humanities. Jen is keen to publish work from a broad range of voices — academic, clinical, and creative alike — in order to explore different perspectives of health and illness. Her particular interests include but are not limited to: the history of ancient medicine and mental health; stigma, shame, and epistemic injustice in illness; intimacy and desire; monstrosity and monster theory; and the anthropology of death and mourning rituals.
Anna Kemball is a PhD candidate in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, where she has also taught English Literature. Her thesis, funded by the AHRC, brings the critical medical humanities and Indigenous studies into closer relation. Her research demonstrates a commitment to global methodological developments within the critical medical humanities, combined with an awareness of the challenges posed by cross-cultural scholarship.
Outside of Anna’s own research interests, she would be happy to work with reviewers on any topic within the medical humanities. She would particularly welcome non-conventional reviews, including those which foreground a reviewer’s relationship to scholarship that they have found formative or meaningful.
Aly Fixter’s background is in journalism and communications, where they have focused for many years on health and sexuality-related topics. They are currently completing an MA in Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University, where their dissertation explores the lived experience and societal contexts of epistemic injustice in chronic illness through experimental fiction and autotheory. Aly’s research and creative interests include: sick and neurodivergent writing practice and poetics; use of constraint, borrowed forms and aleatory methods in experimental writing; experimental non-fiction; sickness narratives and emancipatory research; and the history of the UK’s NHS and social security systems. Aly edits Spooniehacker, an online magazine by and for sick, disabled and neurodivergent people, and is on the management committee for Chronic Illness Inclusion, a Disabled People’s Organisation leading social change for people with energy-limiting chronic illness, energy impairment and chronic pain.
COLUMNISTS AND PREVIOUS EDITORS
Beata Gubacsi is a final year PhD student at the University of Liverpool. Her current research project, provisionally entitled Literature of Monstrosity: Posthumanism and Authorship, seeks to establish connections between critical posthumanism and New Weird through their understanding and representation of human and non-human sentience and subjectivity, focusing on the meta-features of the popular figure of the monster. She has been involved in Bluecoat’s science fiction projects as part of her LiNK placement, and co-hosted workshops at the Being Human Festival, Tate Exchange and Nottingham New Art Exchange in 2015-16. She is the co-ordinator of the Current Research in Speculative Fiction Conference since 2017. Her research interests are gender and body studies, trauma studies and psychoanalysis, ecocriticism and animal studies, fantastic literatures and genre theory, game narratives, and representations of mental illness in popular culture with special interest in Gothic and horror.
See what Beata has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Leah is completing a PhD on dramaturgies of mental suffering in the theatre of Sarah Kane at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research interests include contemporary theatre; mental health and disability politics and activism; psychiatry and psychoanalysis in the humanities; and representations of community care.
See what Leah has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Nathan Fleshner is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Tennessee, USA. While his Ph.D. (Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, USA) is in music theory and analysis, he has long held an interest in psychology, the brain, and music’s influence on both. His research focuses on the analysis of music that depicts dreams, mental illness, and trauma and on connections between the music analytic process and the psychoanalytic and therapeutic processes.
See what Nathan has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Victoria Hume is a composer, arts manager and researcher specialising in the meeting points between the arts, medicine and health. She is currently Director of the UK’s new Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance and a Research Associate in the medical humanities at WiSER (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), focusing particularly on the arts as research. In 2017 she received a distinction for a Masters in Music and Health Communication focused on hospital-induced delirium. Prior to that she was a hospital arts manager in the NHS for 15 years. Her 2016 EP, Closing (released on Lost Map records), featured on Lauren Laverne’s Best of 2016 playlist (BBC Radio6 Music).
See what Victoria has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Fiona Johnstone is an art historian with a particular interest in the relationship between visual culture and the medical humanities. She has been an Associate Editor with The Polyphony since the site launched in October 2018, and was Editor in Chief from 2019 to 2020.
Fiona was PI of the Wellcome-funded project “Thinking Through Things” (October 2019 to March 2021) which engaged with and expanded the visual and material turn in the medical humanities.
She is the author of AIDS & Representation: Portraits and Self-Portraits during the AIDS Crisis in America (Bloomsbury, forthcoming), and editor of the collected volume Anti-Portraiture: Challenging the Limits of the Portrait (Bloomsbury, 2020). Fiona co-curated the 2017 exhibition Mr A Moves in Mysterious Ways: Selected Artists from the Adamson Collection. She lectures in the History and Theory of Photography at Middlesex University.
Fiona is particularly interested in discussing ideas for articles that relates to art and photography, visual and material culture, and curating: this might include reviews of exhibitions, events, or new publications; provocations or position pieces; or something more creative! She is also interested in articles that address pedagogic aspects of Medical Humanities, especially in relation to artistic practice.
See what Fiona has been posting on The Polyphony here.
I am a PhD student based in the School of English at the University of Leeds, where I also teach contemporary literature. Situated across literary studies, disability studies, and the medical humanities, my thesis explores contemporary narratives of mental illness across various genres of life writing. My research investigates how writers with experiences of mental illness grapple with the challenges of producing self-narrative about mental distress in literarily innovative texts that test the boundaries of personhood and autobiography. I also reflect upon the consequences of such texts for further developing critical medical humanities methodologies.
I am interested in publishing pieces that showcase the diversity and richness of work being undertaken across the medical humanities at all levels of scholarship. Alongside my research interests in mental health, trauma, and autobiography, I am particularly committed to curating writing that provokes us to think more critically about the scope and methodologies of the field; with this in mind I’d especially like to encourage people working on the intersections of medical humanities with feminisms, queer theory, transgender studies, postcolonial studies, and disability studies to get in touch.
See what Katrina has been posting on The Polyphony here.
Harriet Cooper has a wide range of research interests in the medical humanities, and is especially curious about the politics of knowledge production in this evolving field. Relatedly, Harriet is fascinated by the puzzles presented by experiential and embodied knowledges: how do we interrogate and represent lived experience? She also likes to ponder the question of how the categories of method and disciplinary identity are invoked across the humanities and social sciences to shape research agendas. Since being awarded her PhD in critical disability studies from Birkbeck, University of London in 2015, Harriet has been working on a qualitative social research project at the University of East Anglia, which is funded by the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) East of England.
See what Harriet has been posting on The Polyphony here.