Category Archives: Members

Introducing: Tom Disney

Tom Disney is a PhD student in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES), at the University of Birmingham. He is supervised by Dr Dominique Moran, Dr Phil Jones (GEES) and Dr Jeremy Morris (Russian Studies). He can be contacted at

TDisney Picture

Geographies of Orphan Care in the Russian Federation

My research explores the different environments and spaces of care for orphaned children in the Russian Federation. This project employs a multi-sited (auto)-ethnography and explores the orphanage as a complex institution imbued with societal and cultural norms, influenced and shaped by Soviet and Post-Soviet theories and practices of child development and care. In particular this research draws upon ethnographic work conducted in an orphanage for children with severe intellectual disabilities. The project considers the multi-scalar nature of this institution including micro scale mobilities and elements of discipline and control within the institution, but also macro-scale interactions with society beyond the orphanage’s walls examining the ways in which children are drawn into such environments against their will.


Pykett, J. and Disney, T. (Forthcoming) ‘Brain-targeted Teaching and the Biopolitical Child’ in T. Skelton, K. Pauliina Kallio, and S. Mills (eds.) Geographies of Children and Young People. Politics, Citizenship and Rights (Springer).

Disney, T. (Forthcoming) ‘The Role of Emotion in Institutional Spaces of Russian Orphan Care: Policy and Practical Matters’ in M. Blazek and P. Kraftl (eds.) Children’s Emotions in Policy and Practice: Mapping and Making Spaces of Childhood (Basingstoke: Palgrave).

Disney, T. (2015) ‘Complex Spaces of Orphan Care – A Russian Therapeutic Children’s Community’ Children’s Geographies 13(1): 30-43.

Disney, T., E. Harrowell, R. Mulhall, and M. Ronayne (2013) ‘Doctoral researcher skill development: learning through doing’ Planet 27(2): 14-20.

Disney, T. (2012) ‘Краткий обзор советской концептуализации молодежи [A Short Overview of Soviet Conceptualisations of Youth]’ Rusistika No. 37


Introducing: Lauren Farquharson

Lauren Farquharson is currently undertaking a PhD in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, and supervised by Prof. Chris Philo and Dr. Cheryl McGeachan. She can be contacted by e-mail:

Parochial asylums and poorhouse lunatic wards – where the Scottish Poor and Lunacy Laws collided

My research focuses on parochial asylums and poorhouse lunatic wards; institutional spaces which remain deeply unfamiliar and unknown in the landscape of nineteenth century Scottish pauper lunacy. These sites embody contestation and ambiguity, lingering on the edges of the more familiar topography of royal and district asylums. Parochial asylums and poorhouse lunatic wards represent the grounded manifestation of the collision between two spheres of legislation – the Poor Law 1845 and the Lunacy Law 1857. Parochial asylums in particular – six of which were constructed in the latter half of the nineteenth century – express the enduring mandate and preeminence of the Scottish Poor Law over the domain of ‘madness’. They were institutions whose very existence was fashioned into being at the directive of the local arm of the Poor Law, the parochial board. This deed subverted the intentions and objectives of the Lunacy Act – the aim of which had been to institute a public district asylum network in which all pauper lunatics were to have been relocated – casting it aside in order to pave the way for a continuing ‘Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy’ (Bartlett, 1999). These sites symbolise zones of ‘legal indistinction’ and can be theorised as ‘spaces of the exception’ (Agamben, 1998; 2005). They are sites which encompass a host of tensions and contradictions between the Scottish Poor and Lunacy Laws; national and local authorities; and ‘State’ and ‘Law’. Being primarily urban phenomena, they represent key sites in which to examine in order to detect associations of ‘madness’, poverty and urbanism (linking to matters of capitalist industrialisation and social class). My research aims to explore the gaps between legislation and grounded practices, tracing out how these played out with respect to the curious phenomena of parochial asylums and poorhouse lunatic wards. By novel usage of largely untapped documentary sources, I aim to reveal something of the entangled geographies of these spaces in which the Poor and Lunacy Laws became enmeshed and entangled; reconstructing their geographies as they emerged and transformed. I will use a mixture of top-level papers from national bodies (including the Boards of Supervision and Lunacy), local level archival sources (from parochial authorities and district boards), and all available institutional material and local records (newspapers, photographs, memoirs). The aim is to illuminate parochial asylums and poorhouse lunatic wards as spaces which were at the epicentre of the treatment of the ‘mad’ pauper, situated at a juncture of legality and illegality – spaces of both indistinction and exception. This research will contribute to historical geographies of ‘madness’, asylums and psychiatry in Scotland; fields which are making continued interventions into psychiatric, medical and social history.

Introducing: Carolyn Gibbeson

Carolyn Gibbeson is a PhD candidate in the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS) at Newcastle University. She can be contacted at:


Haunted Hospitals: An examination of the role of place attachment in the reuse of former, historic asylums

The research seeks to investigate the hypothesis that place attachment is a barrier to the development and re-use of Victorian asylums, as heritage buildings. As a functioning institution, the Victorian asylum was a feared place, symbolising the segregation of the mentally ill from normal society. Yet, as Franklin (2002) argues, the negative perceptions of the asylum have eased, to be replaced by an appreciation of its built form, and perhaps even a certain romance associated with the asylum as a place of recuperation, following the large-scale closures at the end of the twentieth century. It is for this reason that former asylums, subsequently re-named and redeployed as hospitals during the twentieth century, provide an ideal case study for a research project examining the phenomena of place attachment and heritage redevelopment of major institutional sites in the UK. Place attachment and its relationship with the environment has been explored quite extensively in recent literature on environmental psychology and cultural geography (Cresswell 2004; Scannell & Gifford, 2009, Rollero & de Piccoli 2010). In public history, the continuing significance of place and locality has attracted considerable attention in the context of globalisation (Driver and Samuel, 1995). However, less attention has been paid to the relationship between heritage, place attachment and the built environment, and it is to this field that the research is designed to make its main contribution.

Introducing: Anna Schliehe

Anna Schliehe is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow. Her supervisors are Dr Hester Parr and Prof Chris Philo. Anna can be contacted at:


The nature and experience of spaces of confinement for girls and young women in Scotland

My project is concerned with the experiences of girls and young women who have spent time in closed environments. The discourse on spaces of confinement will be extended by highlighting the young women’s trajectory into detention and the use of closed institutions as a response to ‘deviant’, ‘unmanageable’ and ‘disorderly’ behavior. It analyses how these social, material and symbolic spaces are experienced and responded to and what the institutional journeys between them can look like. The project explores three types of institutions – secure care units, prisons, and closed psychiatric units – as well as working with an organisation called Up-2-Us that offers an intensive support service for young people at high risk of secure care or custody (Time for Change). The geography of these three different systems of confinement for girls and young women works towards an understanding of the carceral experience as embodied, emotional and often repetitive practice going beyond physical carceral detainment.

Schliehe, A. K., 2014, Inside ‘the Carceral’: Girls and Young Women in the Scottish Criminal Justice System. Scottish Geographical Journal, 130 (2), 71-85.

Introducing: Louise Boyle

Louise Boyle is currently undertaking a PhD in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, and supervised by Prof. Chris Philo and Dr. Cheryl McGeachan. She can be contacted by e-mail:, or Twitter @Louise_eb

Louise Boyle

Running into the SAnD: a social and anticipatory geography of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAnD) in on- and offline worlds

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAnD) is currently defined as: ‘a persistent fear of one or more social situations where embarrassment may occur and the fear of anxiety is out of proportion with the actual threat posed by the social situation as determined by the person’s cultural norms. Typical social situations can be grouped into those that involve interaction, observation and performance’ (NICE, 2013). SAnD is hence a ‘situational’ or ‘environmental’ condition, often triggered by ‘embarrassing’ experiences in particular situations/environments which generate anxiety-drenched anticipations of what potentially could ‘go wrong’ for someone in future (roughly equivalent) settings. As such, the experience of SAnD ruptures the fabrics, places and spaces of everyday life; and SAnD is hence fundamentally geographical, necessarily bound up in an intimate social geography of experience where anxiety, fear and embarrassment occur across a range of social settings.

SAnD is also a thoroughly anticipatory condition whereby such anticipations shape and inhibit future conducts, movements and relationships, sometimes shutting them down completely with serious implications for career, sociality and well-being. Where the individual seeks to avoid these anticipated ‘bad’ experiences, they can reduce their social geography to one of lonely home-bound isolation. Crucially, the condition works temporally in both directions, with memories of (real or imagined) past embarrassments, and their settings, being projected forward into anticipations of future difficulties. Arguably, such projections are ‘irrational’: nonetheless, empathetic insight into the condition requires that these irrationalities are met with an ethics of open-handed care and concern, striving to enter their own strange dynamics and associations.

The purpose of this project will hence be to develop geographical narratives of SAnD experience that open up specific individual, situational and environmental factors integral to triggering anticipations of future anxious episodes. These narratives will also consider subsequent changes in how individuals utilise everyday spaces, and with what implications for them. Particular attention will be given to where their anxieties intersect with those conveyed in broader representations of an anxious modern age, assessing whether such representations may themselves be reflected in, or even productive of, individual SAnD anxieties. Developing these geographical narratives does more than just uncover the places and spaces that shape, and are shaped by, SAnD experience; they will disclose individuals’ coping strategies, struggles to attain ‘recovery’ and possible engagement with other people enduring SAnD. As with the similar anxiety disorders there is a reason to suppose that people with SAnD benefit from online interactions with other SAnD ‘sufferers’, and a further component of the research will ask about the extent/character of an online SAnD community (and how it then connects back to lives lived offline).

Introducing: Prof Chris Philo

Chris Philo is a Professor of Geography in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, and can be contacted by email:


My PhD and subsequent research centred on what I have termed the historical geography of the ‘mad-business’ in England and Wales (‘mad-business’ being a term occasionally deployed to reference all manner of institutional responses to ‘madness’). Setting the stage with the largely non-institutional experience of ‘madness’ in Medieval/Early Modern England and Wales, I reconstructed the origins of a more systematic (although never all-encompassing) institutionalisation of ‘madness’ following legislation of the early-1700s which directed local Justices to confine ‘dangerous lunatics’ in ‘secure places’. Initially meaning a chaotic mixture of gaols, houses of correction and poorhouses, such spaces ultimately proved incapable of holding the ‘mad’. Private madhouses – profiteering on the back of these unfortunates – sprang up, partly to cater for ‘rich lunatics’ but sometimes to service parochial authorities, but they proved equally problematic. Parliamentary inquiries from the later-1700s into the early-1800s continually exposed the deficiencies of these institutional responses, and – inspired by the few charitable lunatic hospitals which had arisen in urban centres during the 1700s – the British government eventually passed a series of acts (from 1808 to 1845) which enabled, then compelled, county magistracies to open state-funded and –inspected public county lunatic asylums for their ‘pauper lunatic charges’. Mentally unwell individuals could still be found elsewhere, but gradually the public asylums, these forerunners of the mental/psychiatric hospitals which began to close from the 1960s onwards, became the dominant institutional presence within the ‘mad-business’. They peppered the landscapes of England and Wales, a familiar if somewhat fearful sight, often found just ‘out-of-town’ in relative rural seclusion, set back amongst fields, woodland and rolling hillsides, but sometimes more remotely located on/in distant valleys, heaths and hill-tops.

There is an extraordinary ‘spatial history’ to recall of these diverse spaces comprising the English and Welsh ‘mad-business’, crossing many centuries and with numerous regional inflections, and (foolishly) I set myself the task of recovering as many chapters of this history as I could manage. Drawing upon well-known archival sources in the Parliamentary Blue Books, notably the various Select Committees and Reports from the Commissioners in Lunacy, but also a wealth of printed and manuscript sources less familiar to historians of psychiatry, I assembled this ‘spatial history’ from the Dark Ages to the 1860s (when the public asylum system had properly matured). Borrowing too from other authors and their theoretical positions, notably Michel Foucault, I nurtured an interpretative framework that viewed the rise of asylum spaces as the installing of soft ‘social control’ – wherein windows were as important as walls, grounds as gates, fresh air as restraint, visits as solitude – and accepting that the undeniable inadequacies and brutalities of asylum life were largely unintended consequences of usually quite humane expert policies and plans. In 2004, I published my complete findings in a c.700 page monograph, The Geographical History of Institutional Provision for the Insane from the Medieval Period to the 1860s in England and Wales (Edwin Mellen Press), with a subtitle (originally intended as the main title) borrowed from Foucault, ‘The Space Reserved for Insanity’.


In so doing, I helped to pioneer this subfield of inquiry into the historical geography of ‘madness’ or mental ill-health, insofar as it has involved sustained archival labour in concert with theoretical reflection. More recently, I have continued to work on asylum-related topics, including attention to: animals, ‘madness’ and asylums; patient artwork and physician analyses; immobilities in the asylum; ‘idiot’ asylums (for people now identified with learning disabilities); deinstitutional and community care experiences for people with mental health problems living in remote rural locations; links with psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic geographies; and broader coordinates of ‘Reason’ and ‘Unreason’. Since the mid-2000s I have also been fortunate enough to recruit a wonderful series of postgraduate students who have themselves become innovative investigators into the histories and historical geographies of ‘madness’, asylums and psychiatry in Scotland.  Some of their contributions can be found in the posts on this blog.

Introducing: Hazel Morrison

Dr. Hazel Morrison is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Geography at Durham University. She can be contacted at:


Hazel Morrison undertook Masters and PhD research under the umbrella subject of the history of medicine at the University of Glasgow between 2008-2014. By applying a critical hermeneutics to the psychiatric case note record, her specialism became the so-called ‘dynamic’ psychiatry of early 20th century Scottish psychiatrist Dr. David Kennedy Henderson. Taking methodological and theoretical influence from research emerging in the interdisciplinary spheres of the arts, medical humanities and social sciences, Hazel explored the constituent parts of the ‘dynamic’ clinical encounter, so to understand the agency of both patient and psychiatrist is shaping the history of medical knowledge. Her most recent article, ‘Constructing patient stories’ can be found in Medical History.

Hazel is currently working as a postgraduate research associate on the Volkswagen Foundation funded project ‘‘Wandering Minds: Interdisciplinary Experiments on Self-Generated Thought.’ Collaborating with the project’s four investigators: Felicity Callard, Des Fitzgerald, Daniel Margulies and Jonny Smallwood, Hazel aims to explore past and present experimental entanglements in theory, method and history concerning mind wandering (and related phenomena) from humanities, qualitative social sciences and cognitive neuroscience perspectives. Using auto-ethnographic and historical methods, this project aims not only to uncover a history of interdisciplinary approaches to the subject of self generated thought, but to specify what is currently involved in concretely experimentalizing humanistic and social scientific knowledge in an interdisciplinary neuroscientific setting.


‘Constructing Patient Stories: ‘Dynamic’ Case Notes and Clinical Encounters at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Mental Hospital, 1921–32’, Medical History, Volume 60, Issue 01, January 2016, 67-86.


This article contextualises the production of patient records at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Mental Hospital between 1921 and 1932. Following his appointment as asylum superintendent in 1921, psychiatrist David Kennedy Henderson sought to introduce a so-called dynamic approach to mental health care. He did so, primarily, by encouraging patients to reveal their inner lives through their own language and own understanding of their illness. To this effect, Henderson implemented several techniques devised to gather as much information as possible about patients. He notably established routine ‘staff meetings’ in which a psychiatrist directed questions towards a patient while a stenographer recorded word-for-word the conversation that passed between the two parties. As a result, the records compiled at Gartnavel under Henderson’s guidance offer a unique window into the various strategies deployed by patients, but also allow physicians and hospital staff to negotiate their place amidst these clinical encounters. In this paper, I analyse the production of patient narratives in these materials. The article begins with Henderson’s articulation of his ‘dynamic’ psychotherapeutic method, before proceeding to an in-depth hermeneutic investigation into samples of Gartnavel’s case notes and staff meeting transcripts. In the process, patient–psychiatrist relationships are revealed to be mutually dependent and interrelated subjects of historical enquiry rather than as distinct entities. This study highlights the multi-vocal nature of the construction of stories ‘from below’ and interrogates their subsequent appropriation by historians.