Dr Anna Lavis BA, MSc, MRes, PhD

Institute of Applied Health Research
Research Fellow

Contact details

Primary Care Clinical Sciences
Institute of Applied Health Research
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Anna Lavis is a Medical Anthropologist whose work focuses on individuals’ lived experiences and subjectivities of mental illness and distress.

She conducts applied qualitative research into first-episode psychosis (FEP). To this there are two central strands:

1) The SUPEREDEN Study: Exploring the experiences of young people with FEP treated through English Early Intervention Services (EIS), and the experiences of their carers (Role: Qualitative Lead/ Principal Investigator).

2) Women’s lived experiences of psychosis: An NSPCR-funded (FR7- 2012) qualitative analysis of the influence of gender on day-to-day experiences of a first episode of psychosis and related healthcare needs (Role: Chief Investigator).

Other current projects include:

1) Obesity, Eating Disorders and the Media: University of Oxford (Role: Collaborator)

2) Pro-Anorexia websites: Ethnography and interviewing online.

3) Consuming Materialities: Bodies, Boundaries and Encounters

(Role: Co-founder and lead with Emma-Jayne Abbots, University of Wales Trinity St David).

This project brings together political economy and medical anthropological approaches to map out ways in which encounters between diverse materialities, agencies and socialities are made manifest through everyday processes of drawing objects, ideas and relations into bodies. We explore, in turn, how such processes constitute bodies, objects and relations.

For more information or to join the network, please visit: www.trinitysaintdavid.ac.uk/en/materialities/


  • PhD Medical Anthropology: Goldsmiths, University of London, 2011.
  • MRes Medical Anthropology and Research Methods:
    Goldsmiths, University of London, 2006.
  • MSc Social Anthropology: University College London, 2003.
  • BA Modern and Middle Eastern Languages: University of Oxford, 2002


After completing a BA in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, Anna went on to study for an MSc in Social Anthropology at University College London. She then worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital for two years, undertaking a range of administrative and research tasks, before beginning a doctorate in Medical Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Anna’s PhD thesis (awarded December 2011, no corrections) drew on ethnographic fieldwork in an English eating disorders inpatient unit and on pro-anorexia websites to investigate pro-anorexia. It was funded by an Economic and Social Research Council studentship and won the 2010 Radcliffe-Brown Sutasoma award from the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Alongside her current research into first-episode psychosis, Anna continues to work on eating, food and eating disorders. As a Research Associate in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, Anna is collaborating on projects investigating media representations of obesity.


Postgraduate supervision

Anna is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas:

  • Individuals’ experiences of illness and/or treatment interventions.
  • Women’s illness experiences.
  • Qualitative (especially ethnographic) research into any area related to mental health, illness or distress.
  • Anorexia and/or other eating disorders.
  • Psychosis and/or interventions

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Anna on the contact details above, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email: dr@contacts.bham.ac.uk or call +44 (0)121 414 5005.


Research Interests

Medical anthropology; qualitative methodology, especially ethnography; psychosis and early interventions; women’s experiences of mental illness; mental health and homelessness; relationships between personhood & illness; theoretical perspectives on subjectivity, agency & desire; illness narratives; anthropology and philosophy of psychiatry; eating, food & eating disorders; cultural perceptions of fat and obesity; bodies & (dis)embodiment; materiality.

Anna uses qualitative methodology to explore health, illness and biomedicine. She has conducted focus groups, interviews and ethnographic participant observation both online and with service users and staff in NHS hospitals. Research focuses have included childhood cancer; eating disorders; first-episode psychosis; HIV and women’s experiences of screening in pregnancy.

Other activities

  • Honorary Research Fellow, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Research Associate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford.
  • Co-facilitator of the SUPEREDEN Lived Experiences Advisory Panel (LEAP).
  • Founder of the Anthropological and Sociological Approaches to Psychosis (ASAP) Network.
  • Co-founder of the 'Consuming Materialities: Bodies, Borders and Encounters' Network.


LAVIS, A. (2013) The substance of absence: exploring eating and anorexia. (2013) IN ABBOTS, E-J. & LAVIS, A. (Eds.) Why We Eat, How We Eat: Contemporary Encounters Between Foods and Bodies. Farnham: Ashgate.

ABBOTS, E-J & LAVIS, A (Eds.) (2013, May) Why We Eat, How We Eat: Contemporary Encounters Between Foods and Bodies. Farnham: Ashgate (Critical Food Studies Series).

ABBOTS, E-J & LAVIS, A. (2013) Contours of eating: mapping the terrain of body/food encounters. IN ABBOTS, E-J. & LAVIS, A. (Eds.) Why We Eat, How We Eat: Contemporary Encounters Between Foods and Bodies. Farnham: Ashgate.

BIRCHWOOD, M., LESTER, H. E., McCARTHY, L., JONES, P., FOWLER, D., AMOS, T., FREEMANTLE, N., SHARMA, V., LAVIS, A. SINGH, S. and MARSHALL, M. (2013) The UK National Evaluation of the Development and Impact of Early Intervention Services (The National Eden Studies): study rationale, design and baseline characteristics. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 2013 (eprint ahead of publication)

In Press:
ELI, K. & LAVIS, A. (2013) From abject eating to abject being: representations of obesity in ‘Supersize vs. Superskinny’. IN ELI, K & ULIJASZEK, S (Eds.) Sound Bites: Media Representations of Obesity and Eating Disorders. Farnham: Ashgate.

LAVIS, A. (2013) Engrossing encounters: materialities and metaphors of fat in the lived experiences of individuals with anorexia. IN FORTH, C. and LEITCH, A. (Eds.) Fat: Culture and Materiality. London: Berg.

LAVIS, A. (2013) Dangerous engagements? Pro-anorexia website and/in the media. IN ELI, K & ULIJASZEK, S (Eds.) Sound Bites: Media Representations of Obesity and Eating Disorders. Farnham: Ashgate.

LAVIS, A. 2011. The Boundaries of a Good Anorexic: Exploring Pro-Anorexia on the Internet and in the Clinic. Doctoral thesis. Goldsmiths, University of London. [Thesis]: Goldsmiths Research. [Online]. Available at: http://eprints.gold.ac.uk/6507/