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 Diana Beljaars

Diana Beljaars

Research student, School of Geography and Planning

-1.02, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA


  • PhD in Human Geography, Cardiff University (2018)
  • MSc (by research) Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University (2012)
  • BSc. Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning, Wageningen University (2009)

External Activities / Membership

  • Secretary-Treasurer of the Disability Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) (1 July 2018 - )
  • Postgraduate Representative of the History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group (HPGRG) of the Royal Geographical Society (2016 - 2018)
  • Postgraduate Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (2016 - present)
  • Geography and Planning PhD Representative 2015/2016
  • Member of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities (2017 - Present)


  • Winner of the 2018 Todd Reynolds Student Competition, sponsored by the Disability Specialty Group of the
    American Association of Geographers (AAG)
  • Best PhD Representative in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, at the Enriching Student Life Awards (ESLAs) 2016, run by the Cardiff University Student’s Union 

Innovation and Engagement

Research interests

My research interests situate in cultural, disability, and health geographies, post-phenomenological, poststructuralist, and post-human philosophies, medical humanities and STS, as well as the medical and clinical sciences of Tourette syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive and related disorders. 

Furthermore, I'm interested in:

  • Compulsivity, intentionality, and vulnerability
  • Spatial conditions of experience
  • The geographies of medicalised conditions such as AHDH, ASDs, psychosis and depression
  • Ethics and the body
  • Vitalist and more-than-representational methodology
  • Mobile eye-tracking


Postgraduate taught

  • Lecturer on 'Research Methods’ ('16/'17)
  • Guest lecturer on ‘Sports, Body and Society’ at Cardiff School of Sport, Cardiff Metropolitan University ('15/'16)

Undergraduate (selection) 

  • Lecturer on ‘Introducing Research Methods’ ('16/'17)
  • Seminar leader on ‘Border Spaces: Identities, Politics, and Cultures in a Globalising World’ ('17/'18), ‘Geographical Ideas’ ('16/'17), ‘Making Knowledge: Evidence and Practice' ('17/'18)
  • Field Study Visit teaching assistence in Brussels ('14/'15) and Amsterdam ('15/'16 and '17/'18)
  • Marker on various modules


Geographies of Compulsive Interactions: Bodies, Objects, Spaces

*Thesis defended on September 27th 2018, and passed with typographical corrections, which have been approved on October 8th, 2018*

External Examiner: Professor Felicity Callard, Birkbeck University of London
Internal Examiner: Dr Julian Brigstocke

This doctoral thesis introduces compulsivity as an empirical, conceptual and theoretical phenomenon to human geography. Compulsivity as mobilised here is associated with the Tourette syndrome diagnosis, and can be understood as the performance of an unwanted and unprecedented act that is experienced to be purposeless and meaningless in its response to an unqualified urge.

Drawing on and contributing to medical and clinical sciences of Tourette syndrome, disability and health geography, as well poststructural and postphenomenological theories in cultural geography, it focuses on the performativity of compulsive interactions between affected bodies and their sociomaterial environments. As urge-driven compulsions have received little to no scholarly attention, the study seeks to identify if and how a spatial approach could help understand these engagements. In turn, it explores how compulsivity as a principle could develop geography’s conceptualisations of person-place relations.

The study then examines the ways in which bodily environments affect compulsive interactions, and how they are negotiated. It does so through in-depth semi-structured interviews, participant observations, and mobile eye-tracking in close collaboration with 15 participants. They self-identify to perform such interactions as part of their Tourette syndrome diagnosis. The study took place in the homes of the participants, shops, cars, public transport, natural areas, and schools in the Netherlands over an 18-month period.

The outcomes reimagine compulsivity as choreographies between human bodies, objects and spaces that configure towards each other and form systems through dimensions they then come to share. Compulsive interactions constitute, affirm, and (re)stabilise these systems by elongating their durations in order for those affected to thrive. In their anticipation and performance of compulsions, they apply a plethora of spatial negotiation techniques.

In addition to carving out a space for a compulsive approach to body-world formation beyond the Tourette syndrome diagnosis, this study develops a vitalist ethics for human geography to study medicalised phenomena. Furthermore, it proposes new ways for capacity building for those affected; both in terms of individual wellbeing, and for the integration of their voices in academic research in their condition.

Funding source

School of Geography and Planning Scholarship (2014-2017)

Professor Jon Anderson

Professor in Human Geography, Director of Learning and Teaching

Mara Miele

Professor Mara Miele

Professor in Human Geography, Director of Postgraduate Research

Dr Justin Spinney

Lecturer in Human Geography