Nina Fellows

nina fellowsgudtpprofile1

Psychology (2022 cohort)

My PhD research investigates the cultural emergence and social construction of self-harm in the 1990s. This project is designed to fill an important gap in our knowledge of self-harm: prior to the 1990s, it was relatively uncommon, but self-harm is now one of the leading causes of hospital admission in the UK, and is particularly prevalent among vulnerable youth and marginalised communities. By resituating the practice in cultural and historical context, I intend to establish how and why self-harm entered our lexicon during this period and became a popular mode of expression for young people in distress. In contrast to the standard clinical approach to formulating self-harm individualistically, this research reframes the practice as a collective psychosocial phenomenon. Using a combination of historiographic and discursive analytic methods and participant research, this project will develop a critical perspective on the emergence and popularisation of self-harm in order to make sense of its current prevalence, and will speak to contemporary concerns about alternative subcultures, online safety, and social contagion.

I studied for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and graduated with a First and a Distinction, respectively. My BSc dissertation was a phenomenological exploration of Spiritualist mediumship, and my MSc thesis was a Foucauldian historiography of ‘borderline personality disorder’, in which I connected this highly stigmatised diagnosis with the late-19th century concept of ‘hysteria’. While working as an associate lecturer during my postgraduate studies, I joined the teaching team for the undergraduate Psychology module Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology (CHIP). I was then employed as research assistant on a project funded by the University Teaching Academy in which my colleagues and I applied Lacanian psychoanalytic theory to the teaching of CHIP, with a view to developing a radical psychosocial pedagogy aimed at nurturing student agency. We have disseminated our work to an enthusiastic reception, and in 2019, we won the MMU Teaching Award for Outstanding Innovation in Teaching.