UCL Anthropology


Health Care, Living and Dying



Health care, living and dying casts a look at the fundamentals of human existence. Child-parent development, human-robot interface and autistic disorders, talking to a health professional, end of life and intensive care, sleeping rough or being depressed in London, or living in a hospice, parting with people and things, biosocial qualities of religion are the inescapable questions loaded with tangible and intangible socio-political implications for academic and public engagement. Research projects in this cluster are organized around issues of mental and physical health and therapy, and experiences of care by patents and NHS clinical staff. Responding to contemporary changes in demographic structures in the UK (at least), a comparative project Household Surveys examines data collection tools, such as household surveys and censuses, their ability to reflect real-life, intergenerational exchanges of care and their utility for policy-makers, academics, statisticians and so on. The cluster investigates ethnopsychiatry and cultural and ethnic inflections of mental illnesses (for example, zombification and depression) as well as contextualized fears and lived realities of dealing with cancer for different communities and the ways that health technologies and promissory technologies intersect (or not) with practices of identity making for oneself or others. Genetic testing of cancer, laboratory lives, life after a stroke and charity work are high on our research agenda that is explored through a variety of research methods including ethnography, archival research of textual and video materials. Our research has addressed the issues of homeless care and health effects of climate change; the results have been disseminated through consultancy work at CRISIS UK, white papers to the Commonwealth Ministers of Health, and public lectures, some delivered in the Houses of Parliament and at the British Museum. The applied aspect of this research cluster has been fully developed through community projects and student activism within the framework of the Centre for Applied Global Citizenship that offers internship opportunities for students to critically participate in student networks and the work of charities, NGOs and other organizations focusing on development, wellbeing, human rights, and health issues.


Joanna Cook
Sahra Gibbon
Roland Littlewood
David Napier

Selected Publications

Kilshaw, Susie (2008) Impotent Warriors: Perspectives on Gulf War Syndrome, Vulnerability and Masculinity. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books

Gibbon, Sahra (2007) Breast Cancer Genes and the Gendering of Knowledge London, Basingstoke; Palgrave Macmillan

Littlewood, R. (2002) Pathologies of the West: An Anthropology of Psychiatric Illness in Europe and America. 268pp., London: Continuum/Cornell University Press.

Jadhav, S., Weiss, M.S., Littlewood, R. (2001) Cultural Experience of Depression Among White Britons in London, Anthropology and Medicine, 8, 47-70.

Littlewood, R. and Dein, S. (1995) The Effectiveness of Words: Religion and Healing Among the Hasidim of Stamford Hill, Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 19, 339-383

Copyright Notice: Header pictures by Devonne Brandys, Camilla Sundwall and Hammond Eloise (acquired licence and true copy)