UCL Anthropology


Inner Worlds

Inner Worlds



Research Projects

Key words: mind, self, subjectivity, emotion, mental illness, psychiatry, psychotherapy

Mental health in Bhutan: Local Practices of Well-being and Experience of Illness and Treatment (Calabrese)

This project in Bhutan explores experiences of mental illness and its treatment as they relate to religious practice and broad cultural understandings.  Bhutan initiated modern mental health care very recently.  The first psychiatry unit opened only in 1997 at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).  Mental health care is developing in a context in which traditional interpretations of mental illness (dominated by Buddhism and other spiritual frameworks) pervade.  Calabrese is using ethnographic methods, combined with clinical practice in the field, to study local cultural psychology, how Bhutanese understand mental illness and its treatment, and what the lives of people with mental illness are like in Bhutan.

Buddhist Mindfulness Techniques and Health in Thailand and the UK (Cook)

This project explores the explicit links being drawn between scientific and Buddhist understandings of mental suffering and the use of Buddhist 'mindfulness' techniques as a means of encouraging health and well-being in the UK.  This research explores both the forms of subjective inwardness inculcated by mindfulness practices and the complexity of the social dynamics in which such techniques are variously employed.  Ethical practices and paths are crossing and becoming mutually dependent, albeit non-symmetrically. Of interest here are the ways in which the self is conceptualized in therapeutic and religious contexts, and the transformations that the practice of mindfulness effects and is intended to effect upon that self.


The Phenomenology of Prayer in Three Religious Communities in England (Littlewood)



To be announced


  • Joe Calabrese
  • Joanna Cook
  • Roland Littlewood



Teaching Activities

Anthropology and Psychiatry

Ritual Healing and Therapeutic Emplotment


Selected Publications

Calabrese, Joseph D.  Forthcoming April 2013.  A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Cook, Joanna.  2010.  Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Littlewood, Roland. 2009. Neglect as Project: How two societies forget.  The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Volume 15, Number 1, pp. 113-130.

Napier, D. 2003. The Age of Immunology: Conceiving a Future in an Alienating World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Littlewood, Roland. 2002. Pathologies of the West: An Anthropology of Psychiatric Illness in Europe and America. London: Continuum/Cornell University Press.