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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.


PhD Supervision

PhD supervision

I welcome PhD projects across a broad range of anthropological themes, especially those that place special emphasis on the following areas: Death; Illness and Medical Anthropology; HIV/AIDS; Interior Dialogue, Memory and Imagination; Visual, Sensory and Bodily Perception; The Anthropology of Time; Art, Performance and Aesthetics; Experimental Methods and Collaborative Anthropology; Existential and Phenomenological Anthropology; Urban Anthropology and Spatial Perception; Regional Specialisations: East Africa, Uganda and New York City.  


Current PhD Students

Shotaro Wake: Empathy, Stigma and Resonance: Transformations in Perception among People Living with Cancer in Japan.

JongMin Jeong: Healing the Brain through Sensory Stimulation and Activities: Loss of the Senses and Memory in Alzheimer’s 

Frances Paola Garnica: Visual Perception and Urban life: Mexico City

Ximin Zhou: Body, Place and Airports: An Anthropological Study of Bejing Airport

Placido Munoz Moran: Moving Between Structure and Anti-Structure: A Collaborative Study Based on Street Art in Barcelona

Angelica Cabezas: Audio-Visual Strategies to Overcome Stigma among Persons wtih HIV/AIDS in Chile.

Alessandra D’Onofrio: Caught Between Darkness and Light: The Refugee Journey to the North.

Rosa Sansone: The Social Formation of the Mediterranean Sea: An Ethnographic Perspective on Movement and Perception across Lampedusian Water

Lana Askari: Homemaking: Return dynamics of Kurdish diaspora

Jose Farjado Escoffie:  Journey with the Native Potato

Jaime Sanroman Ruiz: How Boomers Made the World

Artur Karwat: Horror Vacui. Fear of the Empty


Completed PhD Students

Mati Dietrich Ortega: Sensing Prison: the bodily and imaginative aspects of imprisonment among female prisoners in Peru

Camilla Morelli: Movement, Materiality and Imagination: World making and Knowing in Peru

Giovanni Spissu: Aesthetic Syncretism in Cape Town

Carolina Corral Pareades: Indefinite Sentence?The Presence of Imprisonment in the Lives of Former Inmates in Mexico

Natalie Gabriela Araujo: Sin dejar: the cosmopolitan negotiations of Colombian migrants in London

Alyssa Grossman: Topographies of memory: everyday sites and practices of remembrance work in post-socialist Bucharest 

Penny Moore: Situated creativity: musicians, identity and nationalism in Vienna 

Michael Atkins: Looking for business: social and visual ambiguity of men that sell sex on the street

Andrea Gaspar: Beyond instrumentality: the expressiveness of technology in Interactive Design 

Rachael Gore: The Acoustic Ordering of City Space


Completed MPhil in Ethnographic Documentary

Howard Walmsley: Savages: Looking at Ourselves

Paloma Yanez Serrano: City Play