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Department of Social Anthropology



I have been carrying out anthropological research on various aspects of mental healthcare since 2012. My doctoral research examined the practice of ‘evidence-based psychological therapy’ in the UK, with particular reference to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The research was based on 18 months of fieldwork among mental health practitioners working in and around the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service established in 2008 as part of the National Health Service. The thesis offers a series of ethnographic reflections on the effects of the institutionalisation of psychological therapy and the scientific persuasions that have made it possible. An important aspect of this research examined how IAPT therapies, especially CBT and Mindfulness, align with dominant discourses in biomedicine concerning treatment and evidence, and some of the assumptions concerning ideas of the ‘mind’ and ‘self’ that are implicit in them. The thesis speaks to interests and issues in anthropologies of science, public health, and ethics, including the anthropology of Europe.

I studied Social Anthropology as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge where I wrote a dissertation on clinical psychologists and clinician-client relations. I hold a Master of Research in Medical Anthropology from University College London, for which I completed a thesis on psychodynamic child therapy.

Prior to the PhD, I worked in the CIPP Research Team at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, and the Maudsley Hospital. More recently, I worked as a consultant to AFS Intercultural Programs and UNESCO.

I am currently engaged in the CRASSH Research Network: Talking as Cure? Contemporary Understandings of Mental Health and Its Treatments


Medical anthropology and anthropology of science; mental health, personhood and care; evidence-based practice; public health and the NHS (IAPT); psychotherapeutics; notions of ‘subjectivity’ and ‘objectivity’; history and philosophy of psychology and cognitive science; anthropological theory. Europe; UK and Scandinavia.



Key publications: 

(Forthcoming) ‘A Factory of Therapy’: Accountability and Evidence-Based Psychological Therapy in IAPT.

2021    Psychotherapy in Contemporary Healthcare Systems (with R. Hutten). The Talking Cure Podcast Series. CRASSH and Cambridge Festival.

2021    Anthropology, Psychology and IAPT: Some Comments on Ethnography. Talking as Cure? Contemporary Understandings of Mental Health and its Treatment. CRASSH, University of Cambridge.

2021    ‘The Corporeality of Magic’ in The Material Culture of Magic (eds) A. Bosselmann-Ruickbie and L. Ruickbie. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.

2020    Critical overview of Global Citizenship Education’s (GCED) contribution to the internationalisation of education. UNESCO Report for G20 Ministerial Meeting.

2019    Scientific Persuasions: ethnographic reflections on evidence-based psychological therapy. Doctoral thesis. Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.


Conference and research papers:

2020    ‘Scientific Persuasions and the Problem of Psychotherapy’. Paper presented at Senior Research Seminar, Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge.

2020 ‘Selfhood in the Making: Fashioning the Self in Mental Healthcare and in Social Anthropology’. Paper presented at Self-fashioning in Flux. Max Cam: Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change, Cambridge.

2018    ‘Studying Psychological Therapies: An Ethnographic Approach to “Metacognition”’. Paper presented at ASA: Sociality, matter, and the imagination: re-creating Anthropology. University of Oxford.

2018    ‘The Aesthetics of Modelling: Patterns, Politics and Pleasure in Visual Representations’ (convenor, with A. Pearson). Conference panel at Art, Materiality and Representation. RAI, SOAS and British Museum.

2017    Mental health and cognitive behaviour therapy in the UKMonologue for Two (broadcast interview, Belsat TV)

2014    ‘Finding a Language of Analysis: The Problem of “Embodiment” in the Study of Psychotherapy’. Risk, Embodiment and Health Technologies. Department of Anthropology, UCL.

2014    ‘Healing the Mind: Clinical Psychologists and Mental Healthcare’. Whither Anthropology? Department of Anthropology, UCL.

Teaching and Supervisions


Undergraduate Supervision

SAN1 – Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective 

SAN3 – Anthropological Theory and Methods

SAN5 – Ethical Life and the Anthropology of the Subject

SAN9 – Science and Environment


Postgraduate Supervision

MPhil Paper 1 – Production and Reproduction

MPhil Paper 2 – Systems of Power and Knowledge


Dissertation Supervision

MPhil in Health, Medicine & Society (HMS): Medical Anthropology


Teaching Associate
 Mikkel Kenni Bruun (2015)

Contact Details

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