Narelle Warren

Assoc Professor

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Personal profile

Research interests

I am a medical anthropologist and health sociologist specialising in interdisciplinary ethnographic research exploring the experiences of health, illness and care for structurally vulnerable communities. I especially focus on the fields of disability studies, neurodegenerative diseases, and ageing to contribute new insights on the intersections of these issues with gender, care, global public health, and wellbeing. My research adopts a comparative methodological approach to combine these areas to explore the relationship between chronic health conditions and practices of care in people’s local moral worlds.

My work is interdisciplinary and collaborative: I work with academic colleagues and community and health organisations to inform policy development and legislation. My research spans a range of areas and disciplines in addition to anthropology and sociology, including global public health, health services research, rehabilitation, disability studies, neuropsychology, and critical social psychology. 

My research covers the following broad fields:

* Gender, health, illness and care - my anthropological research on the intersubjectivities of care in the context of chronic illness raises questions about the nature of relations of care and questioning the concept of 'burden of care' (most especially in my publications with Dikaios Sakellariou). In this area, I also examine how the reliance on informal care benefits the state, while also reproducing socio-structural vulnerabilities for those who are involved in care relations and practices. With Devi Mohan and others, I am also involved in developing a toolkit for carers in low- and middle-income settings, where access to carer support services may be limited.  

* Global Public Health - Health and Health Systems research - my international comparative research on stroke and dementia examines the role of health systems and health services (including facilities) in shaping people's immediate and longer-term health outcomes in the context of these conditions (collaborative work with Daniel Reidpath and Pascale Allotey). I also work closely with UNU-IIGH (where I am a senior visiting fellow) to build capacity among local health researchers.

* Chronic and neurodegenerative health conditions, and the role of structural vulnerabilities in shaping people's experiences of these. For the past 20+ years, I have demonstrated strong commitment to understanding how social inequalities contribute to people's risk of chronic conditions (for example, in the concept of 'recursive cascades'; Manderson and Warren, 2016); understandings of diagnosis and search for diagnosis (my work on stroke, Parkinson's disease and dementia);  and access to treatment, support and care.

* Elucidating sociocultural understandings of ageing and the life course, which was the focus of my doctoral research (on women's experience of midlife in rural areas) and is central to my current work on illness, as well as work on ageism with Barbara Barbosa Neves. 

* Concepts of recovery and rehabilitation, in informal/community and formal/clinical settings - following from my ethnography of amputee rehabilitation (with Lenore Manderson), I have a long-standing relationship with several public rehabilitation hospitals and have explored experiences of amputee, spinal cord, and brain injury assessment and recovery - both in the clinic and in the community. 

* New and emerging health technologies, including brain-computer interfaces, prosthetics, heritable genetic modification and mitochondrial replacement. This includes my current (ongoing) research on the legal, ethical and social aspects of mitochondrial replacement therapy (in a program led by Catherine Mills), as well as Parkinson's-related research. In my collaborative research (in a project led by Mark Davis) on antimicrobial, we consider the sociological aspects of medical technologies and the new social challenges that might arise from these.

* Feminist Ethnographic and Participatory Research - Qualitative and Mixed Methods approaches - which I deliver in Australia and internationally, including in the highly successful online methods training that I deliver with Sara Niner and the anthropological field school in Malaysia (which I designed with Bruce Missingham).

* Research ethics - I have been a member of the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee since 2009


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research area keywords

  • Ageing
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Stroke
  • Gender and Health
  • Inequalities in Health
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • Disability Studies


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