Dr Tim Brown
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography
Tel: 020 7882 8465
Location: City Centre, Bancroft Building, Room 2.02
I am a geographer with research interests in the productive and transformative potential of health and biomedical discourse. I am especially interested in public health discourses, both in terms of the promotion of particular forms of healthy subjectivity and its corollary the construction of diseased and unhealthy bodies. Closely aligned with this is a concern with the transformative power of public health discourse, especially as it relates to interventions that seek to reconfigure the behaviours of populations and transform the spaces people inhabit.
As a critical geographer heavily influenced by Foucault’s work on governmentality, I have also contributed to disciplinary debates relating to geographer’s engagement with health, disease and biomedicine. This has taken the form of influential review essays as well as the co-production of a range of scholarly texts. The latter include: A Companion to Health and Medical Geography (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) and the forthcoming Health Geographies: A Critical Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017).
Though often not reflected in my written outputs, I have a deeply held political conviction to a more equal and just society. I share with fellow geographers and other critical scholars a belief that the neoliberal policies pursued by successive governments over the past four decades have conspired to ‘make us sick’ (Schrecker and Bambra, 2015).
Recent key publications
- Reubi, D., Herrick, C., Brown, T. (2016) Politics of NCDs in the Global South. Health & Place
- Brown, T. (2014) Difference by degrees: fatness and the problem with contagious metaphors. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine
- Brown, T. (2013) The making of ‘urban healtheries’ (Brabazon): the transformation of cemeteries and burial grounds in late-Victorian East London. Journal of Historical Geography
- Brown, T., Craddock, S., Ingram, A. (2012) Critical interventions in global health: governmentality, risk, assemblage. Annals of the Association of American Geographers
- Brown, T. (2010) ‘Vulnerability is universal’: Considering the place of ‘security’ and ‘vulnerability’ within contemporary global health discourse. Social Science & Medicine
- Brown, T., Bell, M. (2008) Imperial or postcolonial governance: dissecting the genealogy of a global public health strategy. Social Science & Medicine
- Brown, T., Bell, M. (2007) Off the couch and on the move: global public health and the medicalisation of nature. Social Science & Medicine
- Brown, T., Duncan, C. (2002) Placing geographies of public health. Area
- Brown, T. (2000) AIDS, risk and the governance of social space. Social Science & Medicine
- Moon, G., Brown, T. (2000) Towards localised space: discourse, governmentality and UK health policy in the mid-1990s. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
My priority as a teacher-practitioner in Higher Education is to promote critical thinking and writing across the modules that I teach. I blend lecture presentations with seminar discussions around key issues and ideas, which aim to further understanding as well as to stimulate engagement. While I am not complacent, selected comments from student feedback suggest that I am achieving at least some of my ambitions as a teacher; referring as they do to an appreciation of the ‘variation in teaching methods,’ to the enjoyment of the ‘interesting topics’ covered, and to the overall quality of the experience: ‘good lecturer, enthusiastic about topics – makes them interesting.’
Much of my current teaching is organised around themes relating to the geographies of health, disease and biomedicine and takes both an historical as well as a contemporary perspective on these broad areas. These modules are regularly taken by Associate students and are also delivered as a part of the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Global Health BSc. I have also co-developed an innovative new Masters programme, Global Health Geographies, which will allow students to take modules from programmes delivered in this area by the Global Public Health Unit in the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, as well as undertake fieldwork at global health institutions in Geneva.
I convene and teach the following modules:
- GEG5113 Health, Biomedicine and Society (semester A)
I contribute through tutorial supervision and academic advising to:
- GEG4000 Introduction to Geographical Ideas and Practice
- GEG5103 Geographical Research in Practice
- GEG6000 Independent Geographical Study
I am currently co-developing a new MA programme Global Health Geographies for 2017 entry
As Director of Graduate Studies (Human Geography) I convene the following modules:
My recent and current research covers three main themes: 1) global public health and discourses of risk, security and vulnerability; 2) environment, public health and the transformation of urban space; 3) health promotion, ethnicity and place
1) Global public health and discourses of risk, security and vulnerability
The main focus of this programme of research was to outline the key contours of public health discourse relating to the emergent global epidemic of non-communicable diseases. Initial research considered the medicalisation of greenspace within public health policy globally and debates surrounding the World Health Organisation’s Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (Brown and Bell, 2007, 2008). This phase of the research identified the shifting geographies associated with NCDs, the mobility associated with the so-called ‘western lifestyle’ and considered the notion that the processes of globalisation and urbanisation rendered vulnerability universal.
More recent research activity and outputs in this area include review papers exploring the critical interventions by geographers in the multi-disciplinary field of global health (Brown and Moon, 2012; Brown, Craddock and Ingram, 2012), the joint convening of academic conference panels and an associated special section of Health & Place, and the co-organising of an ESRC funded international workshop on the Politics of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Global South, hosted by Kings College London, October 2015 (with David Reubi, KCL).
Additionally, my research in this area has begun to focus on food security discourses as they relate to global public health (with Sarah Wakefield, University of Toronto) and has explored the circulation of bodily materials (tissues, organs and bio-information), patients and expertise across geographical borders (see Parry, Greenhough, Brown and Dyck, 2015).
2) Environment, public health and the transformation of urban space
This programme of research builds on a small grant awarded by the Wellcome Trust to support an investigation into the transformation of disused cemeteries and burial grounds into ‘urban healtheries’ in the overcrowded districts of Victorian East London (Brown, 2013). Focusing on the work of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association (MPGA), this project considered how ideas about the health promoting properties of light, air and urban green space informed sanitary reform during the late-Victorian period. In analysing the discourse of the MPGA, particular emphasis was placed on questions of habit and governance and on the virtuous properties associated with urban nature and its effects on human vitality.
My interest in the work of the MPGA is ongoing, and has been extended to consider the wider assemblage of actors that cohered around this specific aspect of urban sanitary reform in other major urban centres of the period (e.g. Glasgow, Manchester and overseas). I am particularly interested to trace the transfer of knowledge and practice through the network of national and international actors involved in transforming small spaces into ‘urban healtheries.’ This wider project will also follow spaces through time and consider the dynamic interplay between such sites and their use (or misuse) by the populations whose health they were/are intended to promote. Here the project is informed by the work of the urban theorist Jane Jacobs.
Additional research in this area includes a collaboratively funded PhD project (AHRC CDA award 2012-2015; Oliver Gibson PhD candidate) into the influence of ideas about environment and health on the institutional practices and welfare strategies of children in the care of Dr Barnardo’s, circa. 1860 – 1910. Awarded collaboratively with the Ragged School Museum, this project has also involved the development of public engagement activities with the museum and has led to a separate investigation into the work of Barnardos in preparing children for emigration overseas, particularly Canada (with Alastair Owens; funded by a small grant from the Centre for the Study of Migration, QMUL 2013).
3) Health promotion, ethnicity and place
- Promoting early presentation of breast cancer among Black women 25-50: A survey and intervention study in City and Hackney, 2013-15 (Barts and the London Charity, £162,125)
(Stephen Duffy PI; Tim Brown Co-I; Isabel Dyck Co-I; Melanie Dembinsky PDRA (all QMUL); Beth Greenhough Co-I (University of Oxford); Mark Ornstein Co-I (Homerton University Hospital)
The principal aims of the study were to consider the effectiveness of a DVD promoting breast awareness in the communication of health information to a ‘hard-to-reach’ population of Black women at risk for breast cancer. The DVD, which was produced by Homerton University Hospital, is a relatively short film which aims to encourage early presentation and promote improvements in the detection of and prognosis for breast cancer amongst this population of women.
Following a pilot study which indicated the potential positive effects of a DVD intervention of this kind (Greenhough, et al. 2016), this project involved the evaluation of the DVD’s impact on the health-seeking behaviours of a much larger group of women (approximately 4200 across 10 GP practices in East London). Based on an experimental design, the women were split into control and intervention groups (women in the 5 intervention practices received the DVD) and consultation and referral rates were analysed before and after the intervention.
As co-investigator, I was responsible along with my colleagues Beth Greenhough (University of Oxford) and Isabel Dyck (QMUL) for conducting a qualitative analysis of the DVD intervention. In addition to interviewing healthcare professionals at each of the GP practices, groups of 8 to 10 women were engaged in a focus group discussion to explore their response to the DVD (if it was received as a part of the intervention) and its influence in terms of breast awareness and help-seeking behaviour.
Results from the project are in the process of being written up.
- Promoting early presentation of breast cancer among Black women 25-50: A survey and intervention study in City and Hackney, 2016-17 (Barts and the London Charity, no-cost extension of qualitative project)
(Tim Brown PI, Isabel Dyck Co-I, Menah Raven-Ellison PDRA (QMUL); Beth Greenhough Co-I (University of Oxford))
The qualitative evaluation of the above project generated research questions that warranted further investigation. Firstly, the categorisation of women as ‘Black’ prompted considerable discussion in the focus group evaluation. Such questions as ‘what type of black women’ as well as questions about cultural differences among black women were raised by the participants. Secondly, participants raised the question of mobility: both in terms of women’s migration in and out of the area and women from documented (and perhaps undocumented) migrant communities.
In order to enhance the potential effectiveness of the DVD, this extension to the project will conduct follow-on interviews and focus groups to investigate the labelling of ‘Black’ women as a specific risk group for breast cancer and how this might act as a potential barrier to their receipt of and response to the information provided within the DVD. It will also explore with the women other, perhaps more culturally appropriate and population specific, mechanisms for the dissemination of the DVD content amongst hard to reach individuals who fit within the defined target population.
Outside of these main research areas I have been involved in a range of cross-disciplinary initiatives across the QMUL campus, including the development of the Life Sciences Initiative and more recently a long table discussion on the theme of ‘Life is shit (Shit is life).’
- Brown, T., Andrews, G., Cummins, S., Greenhough, G., Lewis, D and Power, A., Health Geographies: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing (forthcoming 2017).
- Parry, B., Greenhough, B., Brown, T., Dyck, I. (Eds) (2015) Bodies Across Borders: The global circulation of body parts, medical tourists and professionals. Aldershot: Ashgate.
- Brown, T., McLafferty, S., Moon, G. (Eds) (2009) A Companion to Health and Medical Geography. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
- Moon, G., Gould, M., Brown, T. et al. (2000) Epidemiology for Nurses and the Caring Professions. Buckingham: Open University Press.
A complete list of publications is available here
- Reubi, D., Herrick, C., Brown, T. (2016) Politics of NCDs in the Global South. Health & Place 39, 179-187.
- Wakefield, S., Fredrickson, K.R. Brown, T. (2015) Food, security, and health in Canada: Imaginaries, exclusions and possibilities. Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe Canadien 59, 82-92.
- Greenhough, B., Parry, B., Dyck, I., Brown, T. (2015) Editorial: Bodies across borders. Gender, Place, Culture, 22, 83-89.
Brown, T. (2014) Difference by degrees: fatness and the problem with contagious metaphors. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 18, 117-129.
- Brown, T., Cummins, S. (2013) Editorial: Intervening in health: the place of urban green space. Landscape and Urban Planning 118, 59-61.
- Brown, T. (2013) The making of ‘urban healtheries’ (Brabazon): the transformation of cemeteries and burial grounds in late-Victorian East London. Journal of Historical Geography 42, 12-23.
- Thompson, C., Cummins, S., Brown, T., Kyle, R. (2013) Shopping for food: routine and agency in the neighbourhood food environment. Health & Place 19, 116-123.
- Brown, T., Craddock, S., Ingram, A. (2012) Critical interventions in global health: governmentality, risk, assemblage. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102, 1182-1189.
- Brown, T., Moon, G. (2012) Commentary: Global Health and Geography. Geographical Journal 178, 13-17.
- Brown, T. (2010) ‘Vulnerability is universal’: Considering the place of ‘security’ and ‘vulnerability’ within contemporary global health discourse. Social Science & Medicine 72, 319-326.
- Budd, L., Bell, M., Brown, T. (2009) Of plagues, planes and politics: controlling the global spread of infectious diseases by air. Political Geography 28, 426-435.
- Brown, T., Bell, M. (2008) Imperial or postcolonial governance: dissecting the genealogy of a global public health strategy. Social Science & Medicine 67, 1571-1579.
- Brown, T., Bell, M. (2007) Off the couch and on the move: global public health and the medicalisation of nature. Social Science & Medicine 64, 1343-1354.
- Bell, M., Brown, T., Faire, L. (2006) Germs, genes and postcolonial geographies: reading the return of tuberculosis to Leicester, UK, 2001. Cultural Geographies 13, 577-599.
- Brown, T., Moon, G. (2004) From Siam to New York: Jacques May and the ‘foundation’ of US medical geography. Journal of Historical Geography 30, 747-763.
- Brown, T. (2003) Towards an understanding of local protest: healthcare reform and community participation. Social and Cultural Geography 4, 489-506.
- Brown, T., Duncan, C. (2002) Placing geographies of public health. Area 33, 361-369.
- Moon, G., Brown, T. (2001) Closing Bart’s: community and resistance in contemporary London hospital policy. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19, 43-59.
- Brown, T. (2000) AIDS, risk and the governance of social space. Social Science & Medicine 50, 1273-1284.
- Brown, T., Duncan, C. (2000) London’s burning: spaces for smoking, spaces for health. Health and Place 6, 363-375.
- Moon, G., Brown, T. (2000) Towards localised space: discourse, governmentality and UK health policy in the mid-1990s. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 25, 65-76.
- Claire Thompson ‘Environmental determinants of diet: exploring the mediating role of culture’ awarded 2012 (with Steven Cummins and Rosemary Kyle, Sandwell PCT; ESRC CASE Studentship)
- Alexandra Boyle ‘Talking about Technology: Exploring the Affective and Emotional Dimensions of Everyday Technologies among Older Adults in the United Kingdom’ (2013, QMUL Principal’s Studentship)
- Oliver Gibson ‘Health, environment and the institutional care of children in late Victorian London’ (with Alastair Owens and Erica Davies, Ragged School Museum; 2012, AHRC CDA Studentship)
- Josie Hamper ‘Women, smartphones and maternal health apps’ (with Catherine Nash; 2017, ESRC DTC Studentship)
- Kristin Hussey ‘Imperial Medicine in the Global City: Exploring the impact of Empire on London’s healthscapes, 1850-1930’ (with Alastair Owens; 2014, QMUL Principal’s Studentship)
- Hayley Peacock ‘Politics of colour interventions’ (with Catherine Nash; 2012, ESRC DTC Studentship)
I am especially interested in supervising PhD students in the broad areas listed below, though I am happy to discuss supervision of projects outside of these
- Critical geographies of public health and the city
- Governance, self-care and healthy subjectivity
- Global public health and non-communicable disease
I very much welcome initial inquiries if you would like to discuss your ideas with me prior to application, further guidance on which is available from the School of Geography website.
A key part of my research activity within the School has involved building collaborative relations with organisations that serve the communities within and around East London. Examples of this include the collaborative links that I have developed, working alongside colleagues within the School of Geography and more broadly across QMUL, with the Ragged School Museum and the Shuffle Festival. Both collaborations have been supported by funds to help develop and foster public engagement activities and promote research impact.
Educating the East End, past and present, 2014-15 (collaborative project between QMUL and the Ragged School Museum; Humanities and Social Sciences Collaboration Fund, £14,219)
Working in concert with the Director of the Ragged School, Erica Davies, this project with research staff at QMUL (Tim Brown, Oliver Gibson, Peter Mitchell, Alastair Owens (PI) and Tessa Whitehouse) involved the production of a new permanent exhibition for the museum.
Opened by the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury on the 20th October 2015, the exhibition ‘Ragged Children, Mended Lives’ features a series of nine panels based on original research by the team and illustrated with images from several collections including the Ragged School Museum, the Barnardo’s archives and London Metropolitan Archives. A series of educational resources based on the same research themes, designed for school groups in Key Stages 2 and 3, and for use in concert with class visits to the Ragged School Museum, are also in development.
The team were awarded the QMUL Interact Award 2015, which recognises the partnerships and collaborations that are essential to public engagement.
Old Problems, New Solutions, 2015-16 (collaborative project between Tim Brown, Shuffle and Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park; Humanities and Social Sciences Collaboration Fund, £13,974)
Working in collaboration with the Shuffle team, the aim of this project is to support the work of the Friends of Tower Hamlet Cemetery Park and explore potential research ideas by:
- developing exhibition materials that trace the cemetery’s transformation into a contemporary ‘urban healthery’ following the its closure to further interments in the mid-1960s. A temporary exhibition will be hosted at the THCP Lodge in 2016 which draws on archival material, media accounts and interviews to tell the story of the park’s transformation;
- producing a short (10-minute) documentary-style film with the Shuffle team that explores the importance of the unique biodiversity of THCP to the health and wellbeing of its many users. The film will also be used to communicate the work of both the FoTHCP and Shuffle and will be shown as a trailer at events in the park, including the annual Shuffle Festival.