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Department of Social Anthropology


Senior Research Seminar - Dr Nicholas Lackenby and Dr Mikkel Kenni Bruun (both from the University of Cambridge)

The living, the departed, and eternity in central Serbia

Despite a growing body of work on local forms of historical consciousness, anthropologists have paid relatively little attention to the idea of ‘eternity’. It is a notion which is vague and indeterminate, hard to pin down ethnographically. Orthodox Christians in Serbia are fluent at expressing themselves in terms of the ‘eternal’, however, and they see God’s eternity as counterposed to the temporal, worldly order. It is a dimension which is seen as infinite, mysterious, and good, and which helps people to understand that time is precisely that – time. Against an understanding of eternity as having to do with endless, inescapable time cycles, here I argue that the eternal is perceived as co-present with time itself, enveloping it. More broadly, I speculate on how such a view affords people creative ways of relating to departed kin, glorious ancestors, and to the past more generally. 


Dr Mikkel Kenni Bruun 

Scientific Persuasions and the Problem of Psychotherapy

Psychological therapies have increasingly come to occupy a central position in UK public mental health. The proliferation of psychotherapy today has been shaped in particular by the introduction of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme as part of England’s National Health Service (NHS). 

Drawing on fieldwork amongst mental health professionals in England, this paper examines some of the scientific persuasions that have shaped the provision of psychotherapy. We will see that it is in large part through the invention of IAPT that psychotherapy has become conceivable and workable within the framework of evidence-based medicine, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) emerging as the benchmark model of ‘evidence-based’ psychotherapy. However, whilst CBT has become recognised as an effective intervention for a range of mental health problems, it has also generated its own tensions and uncertainties. I argue that the IAPT service sustains a practice of psychotherapy that decentres or reconfigures the therapeutic relationship’, framing instead mental ill-health and its treatment as respectively an object and a tool of inspection and accountability.


Friday, 6 November, 2020 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation