Dr Des Fitzgerald
Lecturer in Sociology
I am a sociologist of science and medicine, with a particular interest in the history and present of the neurosciences. I am especially interested in neuroscientific and psychiatric research as it gets entangled in social and cultural life – a kind of hybridity and ambiguity that, for me, marks out important new conceptual and empirical terrain for sociology. To try to get at this hybridity, I am currently pursuing a wide programme of research that limns the intersections of the social, human, and biological sciences, and have active research interests in mental health and urban life; in the autism spectrum, as it has been conjured by the neurosciences; in the history and present of 'mind-wandering'; and in experimental, interdisciplinary approaches to social science.
I currently teach a on range of course in the sociology of health, illness and medicine; science and technology studies; and qualitative methods.
My research is broadly concerned with thinking about, problematizing, and sometimes intervening in, the intersections of the social and biological sciences.In my current book-project on autism, for example, I show how the relationship of neuroscience to diagnoses like autism is much more complex than often realized – that neuro-psychiatry is not a simple biological reduction, but is rather entangled in wider fields of bureaucratic and diagnostic convenience, in the hopes and disappointments of laboratory researchers, and in the affective labours of high-tech bioscience. I am now extending this perspective into a project on restless cities, where (with my collaborators) I focus on the emerging neuroscience of ‘urbanicity,’ especially as it cleaves to longstanding, transdisciplinary ideas about the pathological effect of the noisy, tumultuous city. Through my interest in the neuroscience of mind-wandering, similarly, I ask (again, with my collaborators) if interdisciplinary work, including sociological methods, might not open up this capacious, and scientifically vexed phenomenon. Across all of these, I maintain a 'meta' attention to the problematics of interdisciplinarity - which also is the topic of a book, 'Rethinking Interdisciplinarity,' that I have co-authored with Felicity Callard, and which is published open access by Palgrave Macmillan (Pivot Series) in 2015.