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Dr Arya Thampuran

Assistant Professor (Research)

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Assistant Professor (Research) in the Institute for Medical Humanities  


I am an Assistant Professor (Research) at the Institute for Medical Humanities and the current Principal Investigator on the Wellcome Trust-funded Black Health and the Humanities Network. I also co-lead the new NNMHR-funded Neurodivergent Humanities Network. My research is broadly situated at the intersection of the medical humanities and critical race studies; I am interested in how creative practitioners in contemporary African diasporic contexts express distress and healing, in ways that exceed dominant Euro-American biomedical models and disrupt clinical framings of distress as ‘disorder’. Principally, my work is committed to a decolonial and intersectional approach, bridging interdisciplinary perspectives across the medical humanities, critical race, literary, and neurodiversity studies.

I completed my doctorate at Durham University, where I also pursued my BA and MA degrees. I work with a multimodal corpus of fiction, life writing, visual and performance art, television and film by contemporary African creatives, to explore how representations of distress might re-script prevailing psychiatric narratives of illness and wellness. I am interested in how we might formulate a guiding methodology for meaningfully attending to these embodied expressions. 

My work is indebted to the invaluable conversations that emerged through the Black Health and the Humanities Network, which I had the privilege of being a part of during my doctoral study. This network brought together a community of researchers broadly situated in the field of black health, led by Dr Josie Gill and Dr Amber Lascelles at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Black Humanities from 2021-2022. In my role as the new PI of the network, myself and co-PI, Shelda-Jane Smith (University of Liverpool) are looking forward to extending the network’s existing reach and research possibilities through cross-institutional collaborations between network members, Durham’s IMH, and Liverpool’s Centre for Health, Medical and Environmental Humanities. We are keen to facilitate critical conversations and interventions in decolonising healthcare research, drawing on the range of disciplinary expertise and interests across these robust research communities.