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Imagining models, iconographies and practices of infant embodiment (RDF19/HLS/SWECW/GALLACHER)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 25, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Infancy is increasingly positioned as a crucial stage in the lifecourse for securing both individual and societal wellbeing. The changing size, shape and capacities of very young children’s bodies have long been subject to a range of surveillance practices and interventions to support and encourage ‘healthy development’ (see, Rose, 1999). More recently interest in infancy has tended to coalesce around the concept of ‘early intervention’, in which infancy is positioned as the key to securing societal futures (Allen 2011). Within the UK, the widespread support for this agenda is reflected in the cross-party ‘First 1001 Critical Days’ manifesto (Durkan et al, 2013), which seeks to put the period from conception to 2 years old at the heart of policy making. Similarly, World Bank Early Childhood Development programmes deploy a logic of ‘investing in young children’ around the world (Monaghan, 2012; World Bank Group, 2016).

However, this focus on infancy tends to rely upon normative, universal models of child development, which do not adequately reflect how young children grow and change (Adolph and Robinson, 2013; Gallacher, 2018) nor the cultural diversity of both developmental goals and patterns (LeVine, 2014). Dominant models of development are reified in a range of material and visual cultural artefacts, which distort our understanding of embodiment in early childhood and, indeed, come to supercede young children in various ways (Burman, 2016) with profound consequences for childrearing practices as well as professional interventions and services (Ramaekers and Suissa, 2012).

This studentship will take a critical social sciences/medical humanities approach to infant embodiment and, particularly, to explore the iconographies, models and/or tools used to support children, families and practitioners in assessing and cultivating young children’s development. There is substantial scope for applicants to develop their own project within this area, which can include historical and/or contemporary perspectives and practices, as well as models and practices in a range of geographical locations.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF18/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019

Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences
Department: Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
Supervisors: Dr Lesley Gallacher (principle) and Dr Tom Disney (second)

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa) and full fees.


Gallacher, L. (in press) From milestones to wayfaring: geographic metaphors and iconography of embodied growth and change in infancy and early childhood. GeoHumanities.

Gallacher, L. (2015) Young Children’s Spaces. In A. Farrell, S.L. Kagan and E.K.M. Tisdall (eds) The Sage Handbook of Early Childhood Research. London: Sage.

Ash, J. and Gallacher, L. (2015) Attunement and embodied methodology. In M. Perry and C. Medina (eds) Methodologies of Embodiment: Inscribing bodies in qualitative research. London: Routledge.

Дисней, Т. (2017) ‘Этнографический взгляд на роль эмоций в российском детском доме’ Журнал исследований социальной политики 15(3): 407-420.

Disney, T. (2017) ‘The Orphanage as an Institution of Coercive Mobility’ Environment and Planning A 49(8): 1905-1921.

Disney, T. (2017) ‘Orphanages as Spaces of Care and Control’ in Pyer, M. and J. Horton (eds.) Children, Young People and Care. Spaces of Childhood and Youth Series. Routledge: London.

Disney, T. (2015) ‘The Role of Emotion in Institutional Spaces of Russian Orphan Care: Policy and Practical Matters’ in Blazek, M. and P. Kraftl (eds.) Children’s Emotions in Policy and Practice: Mapping and Making Spaces of Childhood Basingstoke: Palgrave

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