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Dr Andrew Irving - research

Research interests

My research explores how the world appears to people close to death, particularly in terms of the perception of time, existence and otherness. It involves detailed ethnographic comparisons of living with HIV/AIDS within radically different cultural contexts; primarily Uganda and New York, so as to understand how experiences of illness, death and dying are mediated by different cultural and religious practices. My focus here is the ever-changing relationship between bodily integrity and people's practices and beliefs and how people adopt different strategies to engage with the daily struggle of illness and re-establish social and existential continuity. As such my research tries to enter into the world of people who through death, disease or some other dislocating experience have started to become detached from life and its everyday life and rhythms. I am particularly interested in how these worlds are constituted through radical changes in being, belief and perception that occur when people are confronting their own or another person’s mortality. Changes in perceptions of body image and self; changes in people’s aesthetic appreciation of time and existence; changes in pre-existing practices and religious beliefs; changes in the type of imaginary worlds people inhabit in relation to material surroundings; and changes in the meaning and character of everyday social roles and interactions when contemplating one’s decline and death, or more recently migrants inhabiting a new territory.

Aside from deathly matters my anthropological concerns are phenomenology, visual and sensory perception, art, performance and creativity, existential anthropology, time, comparisons of personhood, religious change, gender and urban experiences. I am currently developing a number of research projects under the collective theme of Rethinking Media/Reclaiming Personhood that consider how socially marginalised persons can become included in community and society through different kinds of media and media practices. The projects use visual and other media and use collaborative forms of self-representation that are designed to not only offer a better understanding of marginalised persons but also transform their social and existential circumstances and set up a different kind of social life.