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Dr Sara MacKian

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined the Open University in 2008 as a Senior Lecturer in Health and Wellbeing. Prior to that I spent seven years as a Lecturer in Health Geographies at the University of Manchester. Previous positions have included Senior Research Fellow at Salford University and Project Consultant for the Co-operative Bank working on their community partnership strategy.

Research interests

My research is wide ranging but the driving theme is a curiosity for how people and organisations interact around issues of health and wellbeing. I'm particularly interested in how worlds of experience change as a result of lifecourse challenges. This has resulted in studies on ME, maternal health, parenting and gay men’s health. More recently I have been exploring the use of alternative spiritualities by individuals and organisations to enhance wellbeing and the role of spirituality more broadly in contemporary British society. This aspect of my research is inspired by the idea that the world is more mysterious and enchanted than we habitually think. Using social science and art combined, I explore the relationship between the real and the imaginary, the body and the spirit, this world and the otherworldly.

I have a particular interest in qualitative methods and creative approaches to social science research and learning.

Recent projects

Spirited Stoke: Spiritualism in the Everyday Life of Stoke-on-Trent (SpELS)

SpELS was an AHRC-funded research project using participatory photography and ethnographic research to explore how spirit and Spiritualism are woven through the historic and contemporary fabric of the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Spiritualism is a philosophy and religion based on the belief that the soul continues to live following the death of the physical body and that communication with spirit is possible through the channel of trained mediums. It has often been assumed that Spiritualism is a religion of the past, however, from the latest Census numbers and the on-going presence of Spiritualist churches across Britain, there is no doubt that Spiritualism is still alive and well today. The overall aim of the project was to further theoretical understanding of the place of spirituality and spirit in everyday life, bringing insights from the practices of Spiritualist Churches and their congregations. You can find out more about the project by following us on Twitter (@SpELSproject) or Facebook.

The Spirituality of Everyday Life: spaces of experience and practice

This is an ongoing project following the publication of my book 'Everyday Spirituality: social and spatial worlds of enchantment', exploring the growing ‘spiritual turn’ in Western society. I am interested in exploring everyday alternative spiritualities at a variety of geographical scales, from the body to the nation, to provide a deeper exploration of the way in which apparently individualised appropriations of spiritual awareness impact and compound across society and space. You can learn more by visiting the Everyday Spirituality Blog.

 

Teaching interests

Through all my teaching I aim to facilitate independent, creative thinking to empower students to develop their full capacity. I am committed to promoting equality of opportunity, fostering awareness of structural inequalities, and decolonialising the curriculum to ensure a more equal, diverse and inclusive learning environment for all.

At the Open University I have been involved in modules on leadership and management, adult health and social care, mental health, and death, dying and bereavement. Teaching experience prior to joining the Open University included undergraduate and postgraduate courses on space, culture and society, health and wellbeing, and qualitative theoretical and methodological approaches in social science.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
OpenSpace Research CentreCentreFaculty of Social Sciences

 

Externally funded projects

Spirited Stoke: Spiritualism in the Everyday Life of Stoke-on-Trent
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Oct 201431 May 2016AHRC Arts & Humanities Research Council

Stoke-on-Trent, famous for its pottery industry, has its past written into the cultural and material landscape of the city, resulting in a peculiarly haunting backdrop to the familiar story of urban industrial decay. In recent years Stoke City Council has tried to reinvigorate the region, drawing on this industrial heritage and redesigning Stoke as a vibrant and youthful city of culture. However, the emphasis on its pot-based past hides another important aspect of Stoke’s cultural heritage, a thriving historical and contemporary Spiritualist movement. The project aims to uncover this hidden legacy, exploring the role of Spiritualism across the lifecourse in people’s everyday lives. A key part of the project is to hold an exhibition at the Gladstone Museum exploring the historical and contemporary role of Spiritualism in the city. Materials gathered through the research (including photography, video, audio and material artefacts) will be used to create a lasting legacy that records this hidden heritage, whilst also serving as a space for opening up a conversation around the role of spirituality in people’s everyday sense of wellbeing.

Publications

"Creating a World for Spirit": affectual infrastructures and the production of a place for affect (2019-02-28)
Pile, Steve; Bartolini, Nadia and MacKian, Sara
Emotion, Space and Society, 30 (pp. 1-8)


Spirit knows: materiality, memory and the recovery of Spiritualist places and practices in Stoke-on-Trent (2019)
Bartolini, Nadia; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve
Social & Cultural Geography, 20(8) (pp. 1114-1137)


‘The constant hum of the engine…’: A story about extraordinary interdisciplinary dialogues in spirituality and wellbeing (2019)
MacKian, Sara
Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Music Therapy, 11(1) (pp. 15-31)


Talking with the dead: spirit mediumship, affect and embodiment in Stoke-on-Trent (2018-05-21)
Pile, Steve; Bartolini, Nadia and MacKian, Sara
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 43(2) (pp. 170-183)


The impact of multiple sclerosis on the identity of mothers in Italy (2018)
Willson, Catherine Louise; Tetley, Josie; Lloyd, Cathy; Messmer Uccelli, Michele and MacKian, Sara
Disability and Rehabilitation, 40(12) (pp. 1456-1467)


The place of spirit: Modernity and the geographies of spirituality (2017-06-01)
Bartolini, Nadia; Chris, Robert; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve
Progress in Human Geography, 41(3) (pp. 338-354)


Psychics, crystals, candles and cauldrons: alternative spiritualities and the question of their esoteric economies (2013)
Bartolini, Nadia; Chris, Robert; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve
Social & Cultural Geography, 14(4) (pp. 367-388)


Crossing spiritual boundaries: encountering, articulating and representing otherworlds (2011-12)
MacKian, Sara
Methodological Innovations Online, 6(3) (pp. 61-74)


Ethnicity and mental health encounters in primary care: help-seeking and help-giving for perinatal depression among Black Caribbean women in the UK (2010)
Edge, Dawn and MacKian, Sara C.
Ethnicity and Health, 15(1) (pp. 93-111)


What the papers say: Reading therapeutic landscapes of women’s health and empowerment in Uganda (2008-03)
MacKian, Sara C.
Health & Place, 14(1) (pp. 106-115)


Social problems, primary care and pathways to help and support: addressing health inequalities at the individual level. Part I: the GP perspective (2007)
Popay, Jennie; Kowarzik, Ute; Mallinson, Sara; MacKian, Sara and Barker, Jacqui
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 61 (pp. 966-971)


Social problems, primary care and pathways to help and support: addressing health inequalities at the individual level. Part II: lay perspectives (2007)
Popay, Jennie; Kowarzik, Ute; Mallinson, Sara; MacKian, Sara and Barker, Jacqui
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 61 (pp. 972-977)


Developing the public health workforce: a 'communities of practice' perspective (2006)
Mallinson, Sara; Popay, Jennie; Kowarzik, Ute and MacKian, Sara
Policy and Politics, 34(2) (pp. 265-285)


Mapping reflexive communities: visualising the geographies of emotion (2004-12)
MacKian, Sara
Social & Cultural Geography, 5(4) (pp. 615-631)


Developing public health work in local health systems (2004-10)
Popay, Jennie; Mallinson, Sara; Kowarzik, Ute; MacKian, Sara; Busby, Helen and Elliott, Heather
Primary Health Care Research and Development, 5(4) (pp. 338-350)


Up the garden path and over the edge: where might health-seeking behaviour take us? (2004-05)
MacKian, Sara; Bedri, Nafisa and Lovel, Hermione
Health Policy and Planning, 19(3) (pp. 137-146)


Up the garden path and over the edge: where might health-seeking behaviour take us? (2004)
MacKian, Sara; Bedri, Nafisa and Lovel, Hermione
Health Policy and Planning, 19(3) (pp. 137-146)


'Everywhere and nowhere': locating and understanding the 'new' public health (2003)
MacKian, Sara; Elliott, Heather; Busby, Helen and Popay, Jennie
Health & Place, 9(3) (pp. 219-229)


Complex Cultures: rereading the story about health and social capital (2002)
MacKian, Sara
Critical Social Policy, 22(2) (pp. 203-225)


Jump in! The water’s warm: a comment on Peck's 'grey geography' (2000)
Banks, Mark and MacKian, Sara
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 25(3) (pp. 249-254)


Contours of coping: mapping the subject world of long-term illness (2000)
MacKian, Sara
Health & Place, 6(2) (pp. 95-104)


The Citizen’s New Clothes: care in a Welsh community (1998)
MacKian, Sara
Critical Social Policy, 18(54) (pp. 27-50)


'That great dust-heap called history': recovering the multiple spaces of citizenship (1995-02)
MacKian, Sara
Political Geography, 14(2) (pp. 209-216)


Spiritualism in Stoke-on-Trent (2016-05)
MacKian, Sara; Bartolini, Nadia; Pile, Steve and Sambo, Daniele
ISBN : 978-1-5262-0339-7 | Publisher : TWTD Press | Published : Glasgow


Nature Light Truth: An exploration of Spiritualism in the Everyday Life of Stoke-on-Trent (2016-03-01)
Sambo, Daniele; Bartolini, Nadia; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve
ISBN : 978-1-5262-0086-0 | Publisher : TWTD Press | Published : Glasgow


Everyday Spirituality: Social and Spatial Worlds of Enchantment (2012-02-07)
MacKian, Sara
ISBN : 9780230219397 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke, UK


Spaces of spirituality: an introduction (2018-02-15)
Bartolini, Nadia; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve
In: Bartolini, Nadia; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve eds. Spaces of Spirituality. Routledge Research in Culture, Space and Identity (pp. 1-20)
ISBN : 978-1-138-22606-7 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Spiritual transformations (2018)
MacKian, Sara
In: Bartolini, Nadia; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve eds. Spaces of Spirituality (pp. 199-203)
ISBN : 9781138226067 | Publisher : Routledge


Introduction: placing touch within social theory and empirical study (2012-10)
Paterson, Mark; Dodge, Martin and MacKian, Sara
In: Paterson, Mark and Dodge, Martin eds. Touching Space, Placing Touch (pp. 1-28)
ISBN : 978-1-4094-0214-5 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Farnham


Touched by spirit: sensing the material impacts of intangible encounters (2012-10)
MacKian, Sara
In: Paterson, Mark and Dodge, Martin eds. Touching Space, Placing Touch (pp. 249-268)
ISBN : 978-1-4094-0214-5 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Farnham


Me and ME: therapeutic landscapes in an unfamiliar world (2011-11)
MacKian, Sara
In: Lloyd, Cathy and Heller, Tom eds. Long-term Conditions: challenges in health and social care
ISBN : 9780857027498 | Publisher : Sage | Published : London


'What's he looking at me for?' Implications of age and generation for gay men's health promotion (2010-11-12)
MacKian, Sara and Goldring, John E.
In: Jones, Rebecca L. and Ward, Richard eds. LGBT Issues: Looking Beyond Catagories. Policy & Practice in Health and Social Care (10) (pp. 16-29)
ISBN : 9781906716059 | Publisher : Dunedin Academic Press | Published : Edinburgh


The art of geographic interpretation: Making sense of qualitative data (2009-10)
MacKian, Sara
In: DeLyser, Dydia; Aitken, Stuart; Crang, Mike; Herbert, Steve and McDowell, Linda eds. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research in Human Geography
ISBN : 9781412919913 | Publisher : Sage | Published : UK


Complex cultures: rereading the story about health and social capital (2008)
MacKian, Sara C.
In: Gupta, K. R.; Svendsen, Gunnar Lind Haase and Maiti, Prasenjit eds. Social Capital (Vol. 2) (pp. 110-134)
ISBN : 9788126909568 | Publisher : Atlantic | Published : New Delhi


Spaces of Spirituality (2018)
Bartolini, Nadia; MacKian, Sara and Pile, Steve eds.
Routledge Research in Culture, Space and Identity
ISBN : 978-1-138-22606-7 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London


Leading, Managing, Caring: Understanding Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care (2013)
MacKian, Sara and Simons, Joan eds.
ISBN : 9780415658515 | Publisher : Routledge in association with The Open University | Published : Abingdon


Health Literacy and the Framing of Health Messages in the Gay Community. Final Report to ESRC (2008)
Goldring, J.; Bellaby, P. and MacKian, S.
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)


EBL from the very first day: developing new senses of place (2007)
Dodge, Martin; Jayne, Mark; Perkins, Chris; MacKian, Sara and Smyth, Fiona
University of Manchester, Manchester.