UCL Anthropology


Rebecca Lynch


Email: r.lynch@ucl.ac.uk
Year of start: 2008 (part-time student)
Subject: Social/Medical Anthropology

Research Topic/ Provisional Dissertation Title

Cosmologies of Control: Self, Spirits and Agency in Contemporary Trinidad


Roland Littlewood (1st)
Allen Abramson (2nd)


My research looks at notions of the self, agency and cosmological worldview in Trinidad and how these have been influenced by modernity and globalization. Trinidad is a country that suffers high rates of crime and violence, and religion holds a central role in Trinidadian life which places God in control, although "Satan is always there". In addition to God and the devil, there are other spiritual forces that may act on the individual, including the spiritual powers of other people who may put a "spirit lash" on someone, or cause them to become possessed. While some illnesses are particularly linked to a spiritual cause, a spiritual explanation may be suspected for other cases where a biomedical diagnosis cannot be reached, where illnesses do not follow their expected course, or where a sudden change has occurred in the person. Spiritual powers may restrict or enhance individual agency, and socio-political power may be linked to spiritual power.

I am interested in how spiritual understandings may help deal with uncertainty and change, how spiritual illness in Trinidad not only continues to exist through modernity but may be reinforced through it and how illnesses and symptoms may themselves be expressions of the uncertainty of modernity.

Research interests

  • Worldview, self and agency
  • Beliefs and understandings of misfortune, health and illness
  • Risk, uncertainty and the psychological aspects of modernity
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Health of communities

Academic Background/Education

  • BA (Hons.) Social Anthropology, University of Kent (2000)
  • MSc. (with distinction) Medical Anthropology, UCL (2003)

Since completing my Masters I have worked as a researcher in public health and mental health at various universities since 2004. The projects I have worked on have predominantly been with adults and children living in areas of socio-economic deprivation and have looked at social and cultural aspects of health in communities.

In addition I have taught on the following undergraduate and masters courses:

Nov. 2009- Jul. 2010 Medical Anthropology, Department of Mental Health Sciences, University College London - Designed and led course for students on MSc. Culture and Mental Health
Oct. 2009 -Dec. 2009 Critical Readings in Public Health, School of Life Sciences, University of Westminster - Led seminars for postgraduate students undertaking MSc. Nutrition and Public Health
Oct. 2005- June 2007 Social Research Methods, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University Designed and taught module for 2nd year undergraduates
Oct. 2004-June 2006 Introduction to Anthropology School of Social Science, Cardiff University Sessional lecturer, seminar leader and examiner for 1st year undergraduates

Since October 2009 I have worked as a trainee editor on the journal Anthropology and Medicine, published be Taylor and Francis ( www.tandf.co.uk/journals/canm )

I am a student associate member of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI), the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS with IBG)


Selected peer-reviewed publications

In press Lynch, R., Cosmologies of fear: The medicalisation of anxiety in contemporary Britain Chapter in forthcoming book: Cosmos, Gods and Madmen in the Anthropology of Medicine, Littlewood, R. & Napier, D. (eds.)
Jul. 2010 Murphy, S., Moore, G.F., Tapper, K., Lynch, R., Clarke, R., Raisanen, L., Desousa, C., & Moore, L. Free healthy breakfasts in primary schools: a cluster randomised controlled trial of a policy intervention in Wales, UK Public Health Nutrition (2011), 14:219-226
Jun. 2009 Wall, M., Hayes, R., Moore, D., Pettigrew, M., Clow, A., Schmidt, E., Draper, A., Lock, K., Lynch, R. & Renton, A. Evaluation of community level interventions to address social and structural determinants of health: a cluster randomised controlled trial BMC Public Health, 9:207 available through: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-9-207.pdf
Feb. 2008 Burgess, S., Elliot, E. & Lynch R. Reflections on the use of participatory mapping to explore social cohesion - a potential tool for Qualitative-GIS, Qualitative Researcher, Issue 7, February 2008, pp7-9
Jan. 2008 Warren E., Parry O., Lynch R., & Murphy, S. 'If I don't like it then I can choose what I want': Welsh school children's accounts of preference for and control over food choice Health Promotion International 2008, 23(2):144-15

Selected conference papers

Sep. 2009 Lynch, R. "Just in case": Notions of luck and superstition amongst gamblers in London, Calculated Risk': New Perspectives on Gambling Conference, Goldsmith's University, London
Sep. 2008 Lynch, R. & Eastman, N. "Non-compliance is not an option": Agency, power, persuasion and control in mental health care, Power: Forms, Dynamics and Consequences International Conference, Tampere, Finland

Selected reports

Apr. 2009 Marshall, J., Chana, N. & Lynch, R., Developing Clinical Leadership, Report for the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), prepared for the Department of Health
Feb. 2007 Lynch, R, Maio, G., Moore, G., Moore, L., Orford, S., Robinson, A. & Taylor, C. ESRC/HEFCW Scoping Study into Quantitative Methods Capacity Building in Wales Report prepared for the ESRC and HEFCW
Jun. 2006 Lynch, R. & Murphy, S. A Process Evaluation of the Welsh Assembly Government's Primary School Free Breakfast Initiative Report prepared for the Welsh Assembly Government Public Health Improvement Division