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Dr Arya Thampuran


Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies

School of Creative Arts, Performance and Visual Cultures



I am an Assistant Professor (Research) in Black Health and the Humanities at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University. I am also the current Principal Investigator of the Wellcome Trust-funded Black Health and the Humanities Network, and co-leader of the new NNMHR 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. My thesis drew on a multimodal corpus of fiction, life writing, visual art, television and film by contemporary African creatives, to explore how representations of distress might re-script prevailing psychiatric narratives of illness and wellness. It ultimately worked towards formulating a guiding methodology for meaningfully attending to these embodied expressions.

In my role as the new PI of the Black Health and the Humanities 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. We are keen to facilitate critical conversations and interventions in decolonising healthcare research and provide tailored support for scholars/practitioners in this field, drawing on the range of disciplinary expertise and interests across medical humanities research communities and communities of lived experience.


(forthcoming) Thampuran, Arya, ‘‘A Skin of One’s Own’: Decolonising Traumatic Testimony and the Poetics of Wholeness’, Consent: Legacies, Representations, and Frameworks for the Future, ed. by Sophie Franklin, Hannah Piercy, Arya Thampuran, and Rebecca White (London: Routledge)

(forthcoming) Thampuran, Arya, Re-embodying Difference: Race, Space, and Neurodiverse Realities’

(Neuro)Divergent Textualities: Representations, Readings, Responses, ed. by Jenny Bergenmar, Louise Creechan, and Anna Stenning (London: Bloomsbury)