Medical Sociology London relaunch: Building Community Seminar Series
The BSA Medical Sociology London Study Group is relaunching with a series of seminars and the aim of building and sustaining a community of scholars working in medical sociology. As well as the aim, community will be one of the key themes we hope to engage with in the seminars, especially as it relates to the changes to and possibilities of health services and research following COVID disruption.
All seminars will follow a 20-minute presentation, 40-minute discussion structure, followed by a drink at the pub for those who want to join. The study group is convened by Fay Dennis (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Emily Jay Nicholls (University College London).
21 June 2023 (5.30-6.30pm)
Something to Cry About?: exploring gendered social support in weight-loss groups and its relevance to inequalities in care driven by governance of the ‘obesity crisis’
Speaker: Oli Williams
It is popularly accepted that Britain is in the midst of an ‘obesity crisis’ that could push a strained National Health Service to breaking point. This significantly informs ideas about what constitutes ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ bodies and promotes weight-related stigma. Dominant ideas of individual moral responsibility frame obesity as a failure of civic duty and as such everybody is under moral scrutiny. However, as is ever the case with moral individualism the relevance of inequalities - now historically significant in their vastness – is often neglected in discussion of and responses to the ‘obesity crisis’. When inequalities are engaged with it is more often than not through epidemiological data which, while potentially useful, tells us little about people’s everyday experiences of navigating this moral climate.
Drawing on a year of participant observation in a deprived neighbourhood where one male and two female single-sex weight-loss groups met on a weekly basis, this paper presents a comparative analysis of how gender shaped the approaches and practices of these groups. Traditionally, concern about physical appearance and weight has been considered a characteristically feminine preoccupation. Weight-loss groups are therefore commonly understood as sites for women to learn to modify and regulate their bodies. However, expanding concern about, and acceptance of, the necessity to ‘maintain’ one’s body has paved the way for men to enter this traditionally female domain, thus offering novel comparative research opportunities. Ethnographic data reveal how members of these groups were affected by obesity being appropriated, both politically and culturally, as a stigmatised disease state. Particular attention is given to how the different groups engaged with the practice of weight-management as an emotional issue and provided gendered social support.
Conclusions will be drawn on what these everyday engagements with weight management tell us about the influence of stigma in public health and, in particular, the ways in which governance of the ‘obesity crisis’ is exacerbating both the emotional burden and material disadvantage of social inequalities.
Oli Williams is a sociologist based at King’s College London. His research focuses on health inequalities, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, ‘obesity’, weight stigma, equitable intervention, and participatory methods. In 2018 the British Science Association awarded Oli the Margaret Mead Award Lecture for Social Sciences in recognition of his work on obesity stigma and, in 2020 the collaborative project he led ‘The Weight of Expectation’ won the ‘Best Doctoral or Early Career Research’ category at the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Medical Humanities Awards.
This event will take place in the Levinsky Room (Ground Floor), 30 Guilford Street, UCL, London, WC1N 1EH.
Past events in this series:
Propositions on how to change a medical monolith: revitalising the commons with everyday activism
Speaker: Hannah Cowan
In medical sociology we often look to the ways in which large scale inequalities get produced through seemingly banal everyday actions and habits. In this short talk I propose that it is these everyday actions we need to focus in on and reflect on to make change – even within social structures such as biomedicine and the NHS that can at times feel like monoliths shrouded in impenetrable discourse. I pose questions for discussion on how we can differentiate finding power in everyday actions from responsibilisation rhetoric, how we can simultaneously be working within and outside of systemic networks of power, and how we can learn from historical notions of the commons to associate our everyday actions.
Hannah Cowan is a medical sociologist based at King’s College London, interested in activism, social inequalities, health, and the production of medical knowledge. She is currently working on a project called Utopia Now! - a participatory project aiming to intervene in medical futures.
This event took place on Thursday 15 December 2022 (5.30-6.30pm) in the Levinsky room, 30 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1EH.
Walking beyond the gate: Places of people who use drugs and experience homelessness in Tower Hamlets
Speaker: Praveena K. Fernes
My research project explores the place-based experiences of people who seek harm reduction services in Tower Hamlets, with a special focus on relations of care. To hone in on the sociomaterialities of place, I use walking interviews and a digital citizen science tool to map how bodies, places, and materials interact with and make particular socio-spatial conditions. In this short talk, I take the audience on a walk with a citizen scientist and pose questions for discussion on how co-production can be used to generate multiple truths.
Praveena K. Fernes is a Marshall Scholar in the UK, where she studied political ecology at SOAS University of London and now public health and policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As a Fulbright Research Scholar, she curated Visible Ghosts, a virtual installation that illuminates villagers’ evolving relationship to the Mun River and wetlands in Thailand over the past quarter century through objects, maps, and citizen science research. Her diverse field experiences with community-engaged citizen science have highlighted the multi-layered nature of understanding lived experiences and environments of marginalized groups, and the importance of intertwining health with its economic, social, cultural and political causes.
This event took place on Tuesday 4 April 2023 (5.30-6.30pm) in the Levinsky Room (Ground Floor) 30 Guilford Street, UCL, London, WC1N 1EH.
Researching psychosocial disability: navigating questions of care and ethics as a disabled researcher
Speaker: Akriti Mehta
My research project explores the emerging concepts, frameworks, and identity locations within mental health and disability activism in India by people with lived experience of mental (ill)health and psychosocial disability. It rejects a purely biomedical understanding of mental health, rather it aligns itself with the approaches advanced by disability activists and scholars.
I share some identities and experiences, and more importantly political positions and a common project, with my participants but am also removed from them as a researcher occupying particular social and political locations and based at a university in the global North. I explore the possibilities of navigating questions of ethics and positionality within my research project, where the dividing lines between my work as a researcher and my work as an activist are blurred at best, where many of my research participants are also my comrades, colleagues, and friends, and where the tensions between academic obligations and activist ethos are ever present.
Short bio from Akriti: I am a mad disabled researcher and (aspiring) activist. I am currently doing my PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science. My research project focuses on the emergence and articulations of ‘psychosocial disability’ within disability activism in India. Central to my broader interests, are questions of injustice, of power imbalances, of oppression and exclusion, but also equally of resistance and solidarities, of inclusive movement-building, and of creating communities and practices of care.
This event took place on Monday 1 May 2023 (5.30-6.30pm) in the Levinsky Room (Ground Floor), 30 Guilford Street, UCL, London, WC1N 1EH.
All Past Events
28 March 2018 (6-7pm)
London Medical Sociology Group Seminar
Jenny Roberts Room, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9SH
Speaker: Professor Graham Scambler (UCL, University of Surrey)
Title: Metareflection, middle-range theory and pausing to think.
My focus in this contribution is on links between sociology’s macro-, meso- and micro-foci. I advocate making more constructive use of already available theoretical and substantive resources than we currently deploy. This necessarily involves a willingness to counter the present tendency to compress the past in the interests of institutional and personal advantage. I argue that we seriously underestimate the utility of extant literatures, theoretical and empirical, and illustrate this with reference to publications on health inequalities. Via a playful use of the Rubik Cube, I argue for: (a) the unrealized and ‘explosive’ explanatory potential of the sociology of health, illness and health care; (b) an acknowledgement of the limitations as well as the reach of the sociological project; and (c) outline a future research programme for (my) ‘six sociologies’ (professional, policy, critical, public, foresight and action). I shall be willing to expand on this in a nearby bar afterwards.
29 June 2016 (6-7pm)
Re-describing measurement: understanding the evolving diversity of self-rated health
Speaker: Dr Tiago Moreira, Durham University
27 April 2016 (6-7pm)
Broken Narratives: Listening with and through another’s voice, another’s voices
Speaker: Professor Lisa Blackman, Goldsmiths
9 March 2016 (6-7pm)
Unsettling technoscience: The biopolitics of ageing and (trans)human imperatives
Speaker: Joanna Latimer, Cardiff University School of Social Sciences
19 February 2016
Environment and Human Health – Social Perspectives: One-Day Workshop (BSA Climate Change, Environment & Health and London Medical Sociology Study Groups)
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
25 January 2016
Shifting Configurations of Science, Practice and Selfhood in US Psychiatry
Speaker: Dr Martyn Pickersgill, Edinburgh Medical School
Discussant: Dr Simon Cohn, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
24 June 2015
Title: Failures, futures and the queerness of fat sex
Speaker: Dr Francis Ray White, Westminster
Discussant: Caroline Walters, Middlesex
27 May 2015
Title: What can neuroscience contribute to the future for mental health?’ The triple crisis of neuropsychiatry
Speaker: Professor Nikolas Rose, KCL
Discussant: Professor Paul Martin, Sheffield
29 April 2015
Title: Some of us are looking at the stars: Constellations of institutional logics and actor autonomy in sustaining healthcare innovations
Speaker: Professor Graham Martin, Leicester
Discussant: Dr Dimitrios Spyridonidis, Imperial College
25 February 2015
Title: Does IVF exacerbate infertility?
Speaker: Professor Sarah Franklin, Cambridge
Discussant: Dr Carrie Friese, LSE
28 January 2015
Debating a revisionist account of chronic illness
Speakers: Professor David Armstrong (KCL), Professor Paul Higgs and Dr Chris Gilleard (UCL)