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Professor Felicity Callard

Professor of Social Research and Director of Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR).

BA (Hons) Geography (University of Oxford), MA Critical Theory–English Literature (University of Sussex), PhD Geography (The Johns Hopkins University)


Academic Background

  • Felicity Callard joined Birkbeck in September 2017 as a professor in the Department of Psychosocial Studies and as Director of the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with a background in both the social sciences and the humanities; she has, additionally, collaborated with life scientists (as well as social scientists, humanists and artists) for a number of years. Her research centres on the twentieth- and twenty-first century human sciences (specifically: psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis and cognitive neuroscience). She has worked in a number of disciplines: she started her career with lectureships in geography at Royal Holloway and Queen Mary (University of London); she later worked as a senior researcher at the Service User Research Enterprise at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (King’s College London) within the Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health (Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust & King’s College London); she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin; and she was a Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor in the Department of Geography and Centre for Medical Humanities at the University of Durham (2012 to 2017).
  • From October 2014 to December 2016, Felicity was Director of Hubbub – the first interdisciplinary residency of the Hub at Wellcome Collection – where she led a team of approximately 40 people on a project on rest and its opposites in mental health, cognitive neuroscience, the arts and the everyday.
  • She is Editor-in-Chief of History of the Human Sciences.

Research and Teaching


  • Felicity is currently working on a range of research projects. The first addresses the history of experimental investigations of daydreaming, fantasy and mind wandering across the human sciences. The second considers the twentieth-century historical geography of clinical research on anxiety. Her research includes analyses of early clinical pharmacological research in the US (pursued by Max Fink and Donald Klein at The Hillside Hospital) and on behavioral therapeutic interventions for anxiety and phobias.
  • More recently, she has been developing research interests in critical university studies in light of the industrial dispute over university USS pensions that began in February 2018. She is a founding member of USS Briefs (a series of papers on, for, and by university staff and students – many of which address the pensions dispute).
  • Felicity also has strong interests in practices, epistemologies and histories of interdisciplinarity. These were given added impetus during her time directing Hubbub (in The Hub at Wellcome Collection). She has co-authored (with Des Fitzgerald), the Open Access volume Rethinking Interdisciplinarity across the Social Sciences and Neurosciences.
  • She has also worked independently as a researcher and consultant in mental health, and has participated in mental health policy at a European level. She has an honorary affiliation to the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London (where she is Chair of the Oversight Committee for the Clinical Record Interactive Search [which we believe to be Europe's largest de-identified database of mental health records]).

Research Interests

  • Histories and geographies of psychology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience (twentieth and twenty-first century)
  • Geography and sociology of mental health
  • Medical humanities
  • Interdisciplinarity and collaboration
  • Cultural and social theory
  • Affect and emotion
  • The 2018 industrial dispute over pensions in pre-1992 UK universities
  • The history of (recent) geography
  • Science and technology studies


  • Felicity Callard currently teaches on the MA in Psychosocial Studies, MA in Psychoanalytic Studies, and MSc in Social Research.


  • Felicity Callard welcomes applications from MPhil/PhD students and visiting research students who wish to carry out research on topics related to the research interests she has itemised above.

Funded research projects (selected)

  • 2017: Development of the Durham Centre for Medical Humanities, Wellcome Trust (PI: Jane Macnaughton, CIs: Sarah Atkinson, Felicity Callard, Charles Fernyhough, Corinne Squires, Angela Woods)
  • 2017: Personal Experience as a Recovery Resource in Psychosis: Narrative Experiences Online (NEON) Programme, National Institute for Health Research (PI: Mike Slade, CIs: Felicity Callard, Stefan Priebe, Luca DiTanna, Chris Hollis, K Pollock, Justine Schneider, Beate Schrank, Graham Thornicroft, Jeroen Keppens, Rachel Elliott, Lian van der Krieke, Vanessa Pinfold, Julie Repper, Adele Bryan)
  • 2016: The Hubbub Hub at the Wellcome Collection - Enhancement Funding (PI: Felicity Callard, CIs: Charles Fernyhough, Claudia Hammond, James Wilkes)
  • 2015: Wandering Minds: Interdisciplinary Experiments on Self-Generated Thought, Volkswagen Foundation (Joint PIs: Felicity Callard, Des Fitzgerald, Daniel Margulies, Jonathan Smallwood)
  • 2014: The Hubbub Hub at Wellcome Collection (PI: Felicity Callard, CIs: Charles Fernyhough, Claudia Hammond, Daniel Margulies, James Wilkes)
  • 2014: M-PHiL Study - Mental and Physical Health in Lambeth. MRC Research Grant. (PI: Henderson M, CIs: Schofield P, Ashworth M, Stewart R, Callard F, Delaney B)
  • 2012: Experimental entanglements in cognitive neuroscience. Volkswagen Stiftung, Second European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences & Humanities. (PIs: F Callard F, C Fitzgerald D, CIs: Kühn S, Lenssen J, Taylor Aiken A, Krueger J, Schmid U)



Book chapters and other contributions

Journal articles

Special Issues of Journals

Other writing

Newspaper/Magazine Articles


  • “Rest and its discontents”. Exhibition, 30 September – 30 October, 2016. Mile End Art Pavilion. Group exhibition (one of culminations of Hubbub residency); curated by Robert Devcic.


Talks and Conference Contributions (selected)

  • 2019
  • Neil Smith Lecture. Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen. Date tbc. (Invited)
  • 2018
  • USSBriefs, Science in Public, Cardiff, December 2018. (Conference panel)
  • 2018 Wreford Watson Lecture, University of Edinburgh. Date tbc. (Invited)
  • Medical Humanities working group, ETH and University of Zurich, ‘Centre of the History of Knowledge’. Date and title tbc. (Invited)
  • Reclaiming and reimagining the landscapes of higher education, RGS–IBG Conference, Cardiff, August 2018. (Panellist; Invited)
  • The Big Meeting: Where next after the strike? Institute of Education, London, 18 June (Invited)
  • The great strike of 2018 – UK higher education after marketisation. AAG, New Orleans, April. (Panellist)
  • Author meets readers: Laura Cameron, co-author of “Freud in Cambridge”. AAG, New Orleans, April (Panel organiser and participant)
  • 2014
  • Criticizing Critical Neuroscience [with Des Fitzgerald] Mind the Brain! Symposium on Neuroscience in Society, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 21–22 November (Plenary)
  • DSM-5 and Social Media. DSM–5 and the Future of Psychiatric Diagnosis, Brocher Foundation, Switzerland, 7–8 July (Plenary)
  • Rest: Crossing Brains, Minds, Bodies, Cities. The Future of the Body: Phenomenology, Medicine and the (Post)human, Symposium, Trinity College Dublin, 19–20 June (Plenary)
  • The default mode network: the emergence of a scientific object. Symposium on ‘Default Mode Network’: Columbia University (Italian Academy) and New York University (College of Arts and Sciences) 6–7 February 2014 (Plenary) [with Daniel Margulies]
  • 2013
  • Experimental entanglements across the neurosciences and the social sciences [with Des Fitzgerald]
  • Goldsmiths College, 26 November (Invited)
  • The Brain “At Rest”: When Rest is Far from Restful. University of Kent, Symposium ‘Exhaustion’, 25 October (Invited)
  • Dissecting Diagnosis. International Conference: DSM–5: Where is the Road Map Taking Us? Institute of Psychiatry, June (Invited)
  • Has Psychiatric Diagnosis Labelled or Enabled Patients?          Maudsley Debate, June (Guest Speaker)
  • Experimental entanglements in cognitive neuroscience [with Des Fitzgerald]. Bio-Social Methods for a Vitalist Social Science, University of Birmingham Symposium, 16 July (Invited)
  • 2012
  • Holding blame at bay? Accounts of aetiology in schizophrenia. McGill University, December (Invited)
  • Industriousness and daydreaming: cognitive neuroscience's revaluation of rest. Glasgow University, November 2012 (Invited)
  • 2011
  • Il dilemma della diagnosi. Quale logica nel DSM V? I due lati della diagnosi nella psychiatria dell’eta’evolutiva: nuove prospettive nella psychiatria dell’età evolutiva, 7 November, Roma (Plenary)
  • Invited expert: Round table discussion: Exchanging ideas, thoughts, points of view about dialogue on neuroscience
  • BID (Brains in Dialogue) Final conference: Dialogue to dialogue, Brussels, 5–6 July
  • ‘It’s in the Family: the transmission of traits and trauma in family members’ accounts of schizophrenia aetiology’
  • Conference: Situating mental illness: between scientific certainty and personal narrative, Berlin Institute for cultural Inquiry, 28–30 April
  • The adolescent daydreamer: experimental investigations of inner experience from late nineteenth-century psychology to twenty-first century cognitive neuroscience. Adolescence, Science & Society, Workshop for Working Group, Max Planck Institute for Science & Society, 16 March
  • “You are who you are by default”: novel – and not so novel – conceptualizations of self, brain and gender from cognitive neuroscience's study of the “resting state”. Feminism & futurity – new times, new spaces.  ESRC seminar series, Department of Geography, University of Bristol, 18 February (Invited)
  • 2010
  • Daydreaming by default: new accounts of brain and self from cognitive neuroscience’s study of the resting state
  • Symposium: Translating the Brain: ethics, publics, identities, University of Edinburgh, 12 November (Invited)
  • Service user empowerment in research. Empowerment in mental health – working together towards leadership [with Diana Rose], WHO Regional Office for Europe in partnership with the European Commission, Leuven, Belgium, 27–28 October (Plenary)
  • Looking Back and Looking Forward: The development of the South London & Maudsley BRC Case Register [with R Stewart] Symposium: Sharing information: enabling research and improving patient care, King’s Health Partners, 21 May
  • The hunt for biomarkers in schizophrenia research: what do patients and family members think?
  • Workshop: Philipps-University Marburg, Germany, April 22–24 (Invited)
  • Service user and family member perspectives on genetic research in schizophrenia. Conference: Mental Health Research Network Patient & Public Involvement Conference, London, March

Keynote talks (selected)

  • 2017
  • Worlding the Brain: On the theme of affect, care and engagement. University of Amsterdam. Amsterdam, November.
  • Interdisciplinary Futures: Open the Social Sciences 20 years later. Conference on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Open the Social Sciences (1996). Lisbon, January.
  • Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Social Research conference. University of York, May.
  • Rethinking Sexology conference [[with Des Fitzgerald]. University of Exeter, February.
  • 2016
  • Interdisciplinary research across life sciences and social sciences: the whys, hows, highs and lows of collaboration. Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science, Colombo, Sri Lanka, December.
  • 2015
  • The interdisciplinary laboratory: facilitating new forms of ‘knowledge’ in contemporary life sciences. Symposium. Queen Mary University of London, 24 November
  • [with Des Fitzgerald]. Social sciences in health symposium: How Concepts Travel across Disciplines. London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine, 10 November
  • Critical Dialogues on Psychology, Behaviour and Brain Science. Graduate and Early Career Summer School. Aberystwyth University, 15 September


Professional memberships

Professional memberships

  • Member, Association of American Geographers
  • Member, 4S



  • One of the outcomes of Hubbub, the two year residency at Wellcome collection, was a 3-part BBC 4 radio feature called The Anatomy of Rest, presented by Claudia Hammond (Co-Director of Hubbub), and featuring many of the researchers within Hubbub, including Felicity.
  • BBC World Service, Health Check. What does rest mean to you?


Newspapers and magazines

Professional activities

Board and panel membership


  • Editor-in-Chief, History of the Human Sciences
  • Editorial Board member, Subjectivity; Palgrave Communications
  • Co-Editor (with Lynne Friedli), Journal of Public Mental Health, Pavilion Publishers, Brighton, January 2004–December 2007

External Examiner

  • I have been an external examiner at Queen Mary, University of London; Bristol University; University of Leeds; Cardiff University; King’s College London; University of Glasgow (twice).

External Assessor

  • International reviewer for interdisciplinary institutes at University of Melbourne.

Contact details

Room 511, 30 Russell Square
Department of Psychosocial Studies
Birkbeck, University of London
London WC1B 5DT
Tel: +44 (0)20 3073 6069