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Professor Hester Parr
Professor of Geographical and Earth Science
I have been a member staff at Glasgow for 6 years, before which I worked at Dundee University. I currently serve on the Scottish Government Working Group for Missing People Strategy in Scotland and am a member of the Police Scotland Strategy Group for Missing People. I am the 2015 ESRC Impact Award winner for ‘Outstanding impact in Society’ for my work on missing people. I have published widely on mental health and illness, seeking to communicate the everyday lives of people with mental health problems in ways that disrupt their social stigmatisation. I have recently published in the Journal of Medical Humanities, cultural geography, Environment and Planning D : Society and Space and Emotions, Space and Society and have a monograph on ‘Mental health and social space’ (Blackwell, 2008). I am a member of the steering group for Broken Grey Wires, a mental health and arts project: http://www.brokengreywires.com/
Research and Teaching Interests
Cultural geographies of mental health and illness
My research has investigated the relationship between mental health and place by focusing on how ‘mentally ill identities’ are defined by reference to streets, institutions, cities, regions, virtualities, natures and mobilities (Parr, 2008). This is achieved through examining the politics of psychiatric service users and city-wide activisms; spaces of ‘mad’ identity formation (Parr and Philo, 1995); the provision and politics of third sector services; delusional testimony; remote rural care provision; online community development and peer support (Parr, 2008); urban nature work (Parr, 2007), artistic citizenships (Parr, 2006) and mobility (Parr and Fyfe, 2013). The person with mental health problems is transformed through this body of work from stigmatised outsider to nuanced and networked social citizen (Parr, 2008). The work centres a diverse collection of voices and experiences which are consistently neglected or marginalised. This work takes mental illness seriously but with ramifications for debates about public and population mental health and policing (Parr and Fyfe, 2013).
Over my career I have been interested in developing sensitive methodologies for working with often vulnerable people. My ways of researching have constituted a sustained attempt to make research inclusive for people with mental health problems, whose lives may be very much outside of the usual remits/reach of academia. My research practices have pushed boundaries of methodological norms within the context of robust ethical argument. As a result I have interests and experience in overt and covert ethnographies on streets, shelters, in gardens and on-line. I have also engaged in collaborative film-making, focus groups, interviews-on-the-move, internet surveys and email-based research relationships, telephone interviewing and forms of co-writing.
My diverse ways of researching have been a sustained attempt to make research inclusive for people with mental health problems whose lives may be very much outside of the usual remits/reach of academia. I'm interested in methodological practices and forms of writing that reach out to people who find standard ‘research talk’ very difficult. Walking, (co-)writing, digging, body-talk, film-making and story-telling have all comprised ways to engage and co-research the lives of often neglected others. The creative methods articulated in the ESRC Geographies of Missing People project used verbatim interview transcripts in ‘storying’ missing people’s narratives, an approach maximising public exposure to the research and making it easier for user groups to access the key messages that missing people with mental health problems convey about their difficult and complex mobilities.
I am currently developing my interests the material and cultural geographies of seasonal affective disorder.
- College of Science and Engineering, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences