Harriet Cooper


  • MED

Personal profile


I am a Lecturer in Medical Education at Norwich Medical School, with responsibility for sociology and humanities teaching. I am also Course Director for MA Medical and Health Humanities. I work at the intersection of medical humanities, critical disability studies and medical sociology, with particular interests in: the figure of the disabled child, auto-ethnography and the uses of lived experience in contemporary culture, shame and stigma, and the material context of knowledge production.

Before joining Norwich Medical School in September 2021, I was a Lecturer in Medical & Health Humanities in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA. Prior to that, I was a Wellcome ISSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Medical Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London, where I also undertook my AHRC-funded PhD in the Department of English and Humanities (completed 2015).

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 (completed 2021). This enabled me to develop an interdisciplinary research profile. Entitled Rights-based Rehabilitation, the second PhD explored disabled people's views and experiences of using rehabilitation services. Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England (NIHR ARC EoE) at Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, this was an engaged research project that involved disabled service users in a wide range of aspects of its design and delivery. 

Between August 2019 and September 2021, I was an Associate Editor (Book Reviews) for The Polyphony, the medical humanities blog platform hosted by Durham University's Institute for Medical Humanities.


Administrative Posts

Course Director for the MA Medical and Health Humanities 

Sociology Theme Lead on the Undergraduate Medical Degree

Lead for Year 3 Reflective Practice on the Undergraduate Medical Degree

Key Research Interests

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 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.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Health Science

Award Date: 31 Dec 2021

Doctor of Letters, Birkbeck University of London

Award Date: 31 Dec 2015

Master of Arts, Birkbeck University of London

Award Date: 31 Jul 2010

Master of Arts, Queen Mary University of London

Award Date: 31 Jul 2004

Bachelor of Arts, University of Oxford

Award Date: 31 Jul 2003