Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Prof. Hester Parr

Research interests:

Social and cultural geographies of mental health and illness

My previous research has investigated the relationship between mental health and place by focusing on how ‘mentally ill identities’ are defined by reference to streets, institutions, cities, regions, virtualities, natures and mobilities (Parr, 2008). This is achieved through examining the politics of psychiatric service users and city-wide activisms; spaces of ‘mad’ identity formation (Parr and Philo, 1995); the provision and politics of third sector services; delusional testimony; remote rural care provision; online community development and peer support (Parr, 2008); urban nature work (Parr, 2007), artistic citizenships (Parr, 2006) and mobility (Parr and Fyfe, 2013).

Creative methods

Over my career I have been interested in developing sensitive methodologies for working with often vulnerable people. My ways of researching have constituted a sustained attempt to make research inclusive for people with mental health problems, whose lives may be very much outside of the usual remits/reach of academia. My research practices have pushed boundaries of methodological norms within the context of robust ethical argument. As a result I have interests and experience in overt and covert ethnographies on streets, shelters, in gardens and on-line. I have also engaged in collaborative film-making, focus groups, interviews-on-the-move, internet surveys and email-based research relationships, telephone interviewing and forms of co-writing.

Career history:

I was awarded BA (Geography) from University of Wales (Lampeter) in 1991. I went on to complete a PGCE (Geography and Expressive Arts) in secondary education from Manchester Metropolitan University (1992) before returning to Lampeter to undertake my PhD in Lampeter (awarded 1997). I taught human geography at the University of Dundee between 1997 and 2008, during which time I was an ESRC research fellow from 2004-2007. I joined the University of Glasgow as Reader in 2009 after a years maternity leave for my son.

Active research projects:

Current research: 2011-2014 I am working on an ESRC funded project ‘Geographies of Missing People: experiences, processes, responses’ (Hester Parr, PI, Nick Fyfe, Dundee CI, Penny Woolnough Grampian Police, CI) This project is a collaboration between Police Scotland and the MPS London, the UK Missing Persons Bureau and the Missing People charity. The project investigates the geographies of missing persons and the geographical knowledges of the people and agencies that search for them. See The project was awarded a national prize in 2013 for excellence in Applied Policing Research and this was presented by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill.

Recent publications:

Parr, H., Stevenson, O., and Woolnough, P. (2016) Search/ing for missing people: families living with ambiguous absence. Emotion, Space and Society, (doi:10.1016/j.emospa.2015.09.004) (Early Online Publication)

Fyfe, N., Parr, H., Stevenson, O., and Woolnough, P. (2015) ‘To the end of the world’: space, place, and missing persons investigations. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 9(3), pp. 275-283. (doi:10.1093/police/pav025)

Parr, H. (2015) Investigating missing persons: learning from interviews with families. Journal of Homicide and Major Incident Investigation, 10(1), pp. 1-13.

Atkinson, S., Foley, R., and Parr, H. (2015) Introduction: Spatial Perspectives and Medical Humanities. Journal of Medical Humanities, 36(1), pp. 1-4. (doi:10.1007/s10912-014-9319-z) (PMID:25483614) (PMCID:PMC4352607)

Parr, H., Stevenson, O., Fyfe, N., and Woolnough, P. (2015) Living absence: the strange geographies of missing people. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(2), pp. 191-208. (doi:10.1068/d14080p)

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