Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


About Us

SHS Health, Mind and Society brings together researchers from across disciplines to articulate and address the challenges within these fields.

What we are doing:

The Health, Mind and Society initiative grows from work being carried out in the Faculty of Social and Historical Studies addressing the social, historical and cultural aspects of health. It draws on longstanding work within UCL’s Department of Anthropology which brings together social and biological understandings of health, as well as research in Geography, History, Economics, Politics, Sociology, the Institute of Advanced Studies, Archaeology and History of Art. Many of us also work in collaboration with colleagues in the medical sciences, in the Institute of Global Health, and Science and Technology Studies. We work closely with UCL Anthropocene. 

Social scientists in UCL have for some time carried out important work on health inequalities and their reproduction over generations, drawing on biosocial anthropology and lifecourse approaches. Our work addresses urgent social issues around mental health, race and racism in health, on environmental impacts on health and on social and ethical questions related to new technologies of health – from reproductive technologies to mobile applications. We also recognise the importance of the historical and cultural dimensions of health – from artistic depictions of the human body over time, to the long history and reach of Chinese medicine.  

  1. Provide a focus for collaborative research and education on social, historical and cultural aspects of health across the UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences and beyond. 
  2. Develop and highlight innovative interdisciplinary approaches to the study of health and share our expertise with colleagues in STEM disciplines. 
  3. Contribute to UCL’s Health Strategy Forum to ensure that the social aspects of health-related research and teaching are fully integrated into UCL’s policies and practices. 
  4. Lead the development of new interdisciplinary teaching on health and health-related subjects. 
  5. Contribute to public debates on health policy, health inequalities and global health. 

Click here for recordings and information on previous events

Our Approach:

The initiative will focus on the following thematic areas initially but these will expand as the initiative grows:

Biosocial Continuums and the Lifecourse

This theme brings together work across the faculty focused on health and wellbeing at all stages of the life course (e.g. pregnancy, childhood, adolescence, and ageing) but is also attentive to how this is  linked to distinctive institutional cultures or social contexts such as birth cohorts. Work on this theme focuses on how health across the lifecourse is increasingly framed through dynamic biosocial approaches. This includes considering how varied and unequal social and historical environments shape bodies, biologies and lives across different scales and spheres of social action, from infant feeding to metabolism and the intergenerational health effects of environmental change, toxicity and pollution. 

Situating the Mind

Scholars in Social and Historical sciences at UCL study mind, mental health, mental illness, and diverse approaches to intervention as contextualized within unique cultures and histories.  Our work encompasses projects on diverse patients’ experiences of public psychiatry, clinical cultures, mental illness stigma, mental health in urban spaces, cultural memory, histories of diagnostic categories, ageing and dementia, psychodynamic processes, mindfulness, and alternative therapeutic communities.  We often work in partnership with mental health staff in diverse locations to positively impact health services.

The Social Life of Technologies in and for Health

From rapid tests to telemedicine apps and novel vaccines, technologies are increasingly woven into every aspect of how individuals and societies, around the globe, manage, understand, experience and optimize their health. Health technologies are powerful in their promise and material effects, but they can also harm and discriminate, create new ethical dilemmas, and often exacerbate institutional and embodied inequalities. Rather than opposing technology and the social dimensions of health and care, this theme invites consideration of how technologies are ‘always already’ social, mutually constituted with values, relations, social practices and effects.