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Personal profile


I was appointed as Lecturer in Medical & Health Humanities in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA in July 2020, having previously worked as a Senior Research Associate in Medical & Health Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Before coming to UEA, I was a Wellcome ISSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, where I also undertook my PhD in the Department of English and Humanities. While I have a literary studies background, I have also completed a second PhD in medical sociology in the School of Health Sciences at UEA, which has enabled me to develop an interdisciplinary research profile.

For some years, I have been working at the intersection of medical humanities, cultural disability studies and applied qualitative health research. 

My medical humanities research has focused on the ‘making’ of disabled subjectivities and on the ways in which cultural anxieties about disability come to be embodied and lived. In my recent monograph, Critical Disability Studies and the Disabled Child: Unsettling Distinctions (Routledge, 2020), I consider how negative affects are internalised via the medical gaze, asking where they become ‘lodged’ in the body of the child, and exploring how they may be resisted. This inquiry proceeds via an in-depth engagement with Judith Butler’s (1997) work on injurious speech acts. Configuring a new approach to the concept of ‘internalised oppression’, the book draws on both my personal experience of growing up with a physical impairment and on a diverse range of critical theories and literary texts, from the work of Sara Ahmed, Michael Balint, Frantz Fanon, Jasbir Puar and Jean-Paul Sartre, to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child and the childcare manuals of Gina Ford. The analyses of cultural and psychosocial formations such as ‘internalised oppression’ seek to unsettle reified identity categories and to explore shame, oppression and disadvantage as intersectional, structural issues.

I led an empirical social research project (leading to a second PhD) at UEA entitled Rights-based Rehabilitation, which explored disabled people's views and experiences of using rehabilitation services. Funded by the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Theme of the NIHR CLAHRC East of England, this was an engaged research project that has involved disabled service users in a wide range of aspects of its design and delivery. As principal investigator, I undertook qualitative interviews and focus groups, as well as designing and leading an innovative creative writing fieldwork activity. 

I have a longstanding interest in questions of knowledge production and disciplinarity, as well as in critical theory and psychosocial methods. Another key influence has been the work of the British School of Cultural Studies (especially the work of Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams). Drawing on these inheritances, I have become interested in the material conditions of research production in the University, and in the the (re)production of the category of the 'interdisciplinary' across the humanities and social sciences, especially in the medical humanities.

I am currently developing a new project on the emergent cultural phenomenon of the 'health service memoir'.

Recently, I've also been thinking a lot about how expertise about Covid-19 is produced, circulated and valorised in an era of hypermediation. 

Since August 2019, I have been an Associate Editor (Book Reviews) for The Polyphony, the medical humanities blog platform hosted by Durham University's Institute for Medical Humanities.

For a full list of publications, please see: https://eastanglia.academia.edu/HarrietCooper