The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Cathrine Degnen

Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology


Roles and responsibilities 

2017-2018: On research sabbatical

2014-2017: Undergraduate Degree Programme Director, Sociology 

2009-2012: MA Degree Programme Director, Sociology

2015-2019: Honorary Secretary and Executive Committee Member for the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth (

2008-2011: Member, Faculty Promotions Committee, Newcastle University

2005-2008: Undergraduate Admissions Officer, Sociology


PhD in Anthropology, McGill University, Canada
MA in Medical Anthropology, McGill University, Canada
BA (Hons) in Anthropology and French, University of Connecticut, USA
Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, Newcastle University
Year-long academic exchange program, Université Laval, Canada

Previous Positions

2003–2005 Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester
1999–2003 Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Social Science, The Open University in Yorkshire
1994–99 Teaching Assistant, Department of Anthropology, McGill University
1997–98 Research Assistant, Department of Sociology, Concordia University
1993 Research Assistant, Département de la Santé Communautaire, Québec


Fellow, The Higher Education Academy (UK)
Fellow, The Royal Anthropological Institute
Member, Association of Social Anthropologists
Member, American Anthropological Association
Member, European Association of Social Anthropologists
Member, Society for Medical Anthropology

Honours and Awards

2012 Association of Social Anthropologists and the Higher Education Academy award for excellence in teaching anthropology
2002 Honourable Mention, Margaret Clark Essay Competition
1996 Dean's Honour List, MA thesis, McGill University
1994 Phi Beta Kappa Honour Society, University of Connecticut
1993-94 University Scholar, University of Connecticut (the most prestigious academic position that can be awarded to an undergraduate student)
1994 President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Women’s Center Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, University of Connecticut
1994 The Diane M. Greenfield Memorial Scholarship, University of Connecticut, Department of Anthropology


English; French


Research Interests

I am an anthropologist and my research focuses firstly on older age and secondly on human relationships with nature. I also have a developing interest and experience in interdisciplinary working.

My work on ageing challenges assumptions of later life in Western society, generally represented as a series of problems - medical, social, economic - to be solved. My research refocuses attention on the rich complexity and experiences of real people and their everyday lives as they age, highlighting the perspectives of older people themselves about what it is to grow older. This includes the importance of both social memory and of place for negotiating profound social transformation. It also includes developing a critique of an implicitly middle-aged, universalised self, one which does not allow for the distinctiveness and vitality of older age as lived that I argue demands recognition.

Secondly, beginning with a period of research on public understandings of GM food, I have contributed to debates about human relations with nature via my work with British gardeners, on animals and science, and personhood.

I am currently at work on a project that brings these two strands of my research interests together - exploring the category of the person across the life course via a cross-cultural perspective -- in a new book entitled Cross-cultural Perspectives on Personhood and the Life course, (under contract with Palgrave Macmillian). In it, I explore the question "what does it mean to be a person?". I consider how answers to this question vary cross culturally as well as through the life course. Broader theoretical considerations that stem from these questions include anthropological concepts of relatedness (how people create and dismantle connections with each other and the world as they move through the life course) and ontology (ideas about states of being and existence, with reference to how these might shift through stages of life).

Other recent writing projects include the 2017 Sociological Review Monograph, Reconfiguring the Anthropology of Britain: Ethnographic, Theoretical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, co-edited with Dr Katharine Tyler (Exeter). My research monograph  Ageing Selves and Everyday Life in the North of England: Years in the Making (2012) was recently reviewed in the Journal of The Royal Anthropological Institute, Times Higher Education and Ageing & Society

Ethnographic areas: the north of England (South Yorkshire; Cheshire); Labrador.

Research projects

2016-2018 £1.1 million. AHRC. Creative Fuse North East (CFNE). PI Eric Cross. I am Co-I on this project, leading an ethnographic work package exploring the anthropology of knowledge production via he ‘fusion’ of creativity, culture and digital technology,with postdoctoral researcher Audrey Verma.

I am also involved in a series of projects that develop my interests in ageing and in place:

2014-2017 £1.7 million. EPSRC Health and Wellbeing for the Built Environment Programme. "Mobility and Place for the Age-Friendly City Environment" (MyPLACE). PI Pete Wright.

2011-2013  £253,799. MRC Life long Health and Wellbeing Programme.  "Ageing Creatively: a pilot study to explore the relation of creative arts interventions to wellbeing in later life". PI Eric Cross. See this link for more information on our research.

I have collaborated with Michiko Nitta, a speculative designer and artist, on our shared interest in people's relationships (past, present and future) with nature. Please visit the Interventions Project web pages for more information and our project page our project page . The outcome of this project was exhibited 29th June - 9th July 2010, ExLibris Gallery, Fine Art Building, Newcastle University.

Other Expertise

I am co-convenor of the Anthropology of Britain network. The aim of the network is to provide a forum which will facilitate a greater level of communication between researchers with an ethnographic interest in contemporary British society. Visit our website here:

In 2009, I organised a symposium entitled 'Embodiment, Subjectivity and Ageing: Emerging Areas of Exploration'. This offered the opportunity to open up conversation amongst anthropologists, sociologists and researchers in assistive technology with a shared interest in ageing. Visit this site for more details of speakers and papers.

Postgraduate Supervision

I would be happy to discuss potential postgraduate supervision with any student interested in any of the following topics: ageing; identity and the self; anthropology and sociology of the body; social memory; experiences of place and of social change; new genetics and society; human relations with the natural world; anthropology of Britain; using ethnographic methods.

Currently supervising:

Kate Gibson (ESRC +3) "How are classed relationships enacted through food and feeding?” Co-supervised with Lisa Garforth and Alison Stenning.

Jane Nolan on ethnographic approaches to 'employability' in Higher Education. Co-supervised with Jennifer Richards.

Simona Palladino (EPSRC and FMS funded) "Place identity and place attachment among Italian older migrants in Newcastle upon Tyne". Co-supervised with Katie Brittain.

Heather Sutherland (HaSS Faculty funded +3.5) "Brothers and Sisters: Exploring the self-reported experiences and effects of losing a sibling to suicide during adult life". Co-supervised with Suzanne Moffatt and Tom Widger.

Bethan Griffith (ESRC DTC funding) Exploring the impact of social prescribing on health and wellbeing. Co-supervised with Suzanne Moffatt.

Silvia Maritati (Newcastle University Research Excellence Academy Funding) Asylum, Inequality, and sense of place in peripheral Europe. Co-supervised with Silvia Pasquetti.

Dr Ceri Black (ESRC funded, 1+3) "Virginity Practices: Sociological Perspectives on Agency, Identity and the Body". Co-supervised with Steph Lawler.

Dr Anu Vaittinen (School of GPS scholarship funding) "Embodiment, Sensuous Experience and Mixed Martial Arts". Co-supervised with Monica Moreno Figueroa and Peter Phillimore.

Dr Deborah Burn (ESRC 1+3) "The Social World of the Allotment". Co-supervised with John Vail.

Dr Constance Awinpoka Akurugu (funded by Ghanaian Ministry of Education) "Marriage, Power and Performativity: Theorising Gender Relations in Rural Northern Ghana". Co-supervised with Carolyn Pedwell.

Esteem Indicators

2015-ongoing: Committee Member and Special Edition Assessor, Royal Anthropological Institute, Publications Committee

2012-ongoing: Editorial Board member, Ageing & Society

I was invited to appear on BBC Radio Four's Thinking Allowed to discuss one of my publications, 'On Vegetable Love: Gardening, Plants and People in the North of England'.

Previous Funding 

2010 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Newcastle University, £3600
2008 Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness, £2000
2008 School of GPS Research Committee, £1750
2008 HaSS Faculty Small Grants, £500
2007 HaSS Faculty Futures Collaborative Project Award, £5,500 (shared)
2007 School of GPS Research Committee Small Bids, £495.75
2003 The Association of Social Anthropologists/Radcliffe-Brown Trust Fund Prize
2001 Flexible Fund Grant, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University
2000 Research Funding Grant, Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research, McGill University
1999 Fellowship, Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research, McGill University
1995-96 Max Bell Fellowship for Canadian and Northern Studies, McGill University
1995 Research Funding Grant, Fac. of Grad. Studies & Research, McGill University
1994-95 Max Bell Fellowship for Canadian and Northern Studies, McGill University