Dr Rebecca Lynch
I’m an anthropologist with an interest in bodies and in biomedicine, and how these are constructed and categorised in different contexts.
I am Lecturer in Medical Anthropology based at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health (WCCEH) and completed my PhD in Social Anthropology at University College London (UCL). My research draws on examples of different topics (often within biomedicine) to explore the dynamic, changing, fluid body and its boundaries, moral aspects of health and medicine, and (bio)medical categorisations (including those created through notions of risk and health technologies).
Taking the body as always situated and contingent, in the process of becoming and being ‘made’, my work includes a focus on the role of the more-than-human (technologies, bodily fluids, spirit agents, material ‘stuff’) and attends to embedded values and assumptions particularly in relation to moral framings, hierarchies and power dynamics, and the creation/widening of health inequalities. Rather than gathering ‘social’ or ‘cultural’ accounts of health, illness and the body and applying these to, or viewing these as separate from, biomedical constructions, I am interested in the dynamic interchanges and co-constitute entities and relationships through which health, illness, bodies, and biomedicine itself are created.
I have undertaken fieldwork with Evangelical Christians in Trinidad (the subject of my 2020 monograph ‘The Devil is Disorder’, published by Berghahn) and on biomedical constructions of the body and health in different settings in the UK (particularly within public health and in the care and management of chronic conditions).
I have two ongoing and inter-related projects: fluid bodies (pieces of work exploring the body through fluids and ideas of fluidity) and categorising and aligning ‘disease’ and ‘experience’ (pieces of work exploring biomedical classifications, what these ‘do’, and the difficult alignment of biology and biography).
I am co-investigator (leading the social science element) on two NIHR-funded projects allowing me to explore these ideas through caring for liver disease and novel technologies to monitor asthma symptoms.
I am co-editor of the 'Health, Technology and Society' book series with Prof. Martyn Pickersgill (published by Palgrave), a member of the editorial board of Anthropology and Medicine, and recently served on the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI).
I lead the Bodies, Environments, Inequalities Group (BEIG) and WCCEHS's 'Lifecourse' theme. I teach on the MA Cultures and Environments of Health as well as contributing to other teaching on the body, health and illness within SPSPA.
List of publications can be found here: Rebecca Lynch - Google Scholar
Research group links
- fluid bodies, bodily fluids, bodily boundaries
- health technologies, especially in relation to the body and the 'doing' of medicine
- entangled histories of bodies, place, and environments
- biomedical categories and categorisation
- values, morality, and religion in relation to the body, health and illness
I have two ongoing and inter-related research projects:
Fluid bodies- pieces of work exploring the body through fluids and ideas of fluidity. This includes how and where bodily boundaries are made through different practices, for example in distinguishing between human bodies and the non-human (e.g. technologies, environments). Following previous work on blood donation and urinary incontinence, my current project looks at the fluid body through liver disease (I am co-investigator and social science lead on an NIHR-funded project on care and experiences of liver disease in the NHS). Through ethnography of liver care and transplantation units and interviews with staff and patients, the project examines how overlapping histories of people, place, health services and bodies (including the relationships formed between clinical staff and patients) may co-create this health condition, liver care, and different inequalities.
Categorising and aligning ‘disease’ and ‘experience’- pieces of work exploring biomedical classifications, what these ‘do’ (particularly in relation to moral framings), and how ‘experience’ is positioned in relation to ‘evidence’ and biology aligned to biography (for example, through health technologies). Developing out of earlier research on Evangelical Christian constructions of the body and health, and more recent work on health technologies and on the ‘problem’ of multimorbidity, I am currently following two strands in this area: how novel technologies shift understandings, experiences and categories around asthma and asthma care, and what asthma then ‘is’ through these (I am co-investigator and qualitative research lead on an NIHR-funded project on novel technologies to manage childhood asthma); the category of ‘lived experience’ in biomedicine, exploring how this is mobilised and constructs ‘health’ and the actors involved in producing health.
My previous work has explored:
- anxiety, risk, spirit agents and subjectivity and how these link to experiences of marginalisation and the construction of the Christian body in Trinidad
- bodily boundaries and relationships between bodies and technologies through self-monitoring health technologies, blood donation equipment, and technologies to treat and manage female urinary incontinence
- health, place and the constructions of the body and biomedical categories in relation to multimorbidity
I welcome hearing from students interested in conducting PhD work that speaks to any of my research interests, particularly where there is a focus on bodies, biomedical categories/classifications and structures, and/or exploration of health technologies.
Current PhD supervision: Cathrin Fischer (SPSPA/WCCEH)