Elizabeth Gagen

Dr, B.Sc. (Liverpool) MA (Syracuse) Ph.D. (Cambridge)

  • Aberystwyth University
    Llandinam Building

    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

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Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My work as a geographer is embedded in social science principles shared with sociology, psychology and child studies. A broad set of interests run through my research, including the social construction of childhood and youth, governing through emotions and education, mental health and wellbeing, gender and embodiment, and the history of psychology and psychiatry.  

My early work focused on the role of child development theories and the way they shaped emerging systems of education and play in Progressive Era urban America. This developed into a long-term interest in the way psychological knowledge is used to govern childhood and I have continued to explore this relationship in the context of contemporary education, looking at the effects of popular psychology and neuroscience in the development of emotional education curricula. I have been influenced throughout by Foucault’s thinking on knowledge as a technology of governance, exploring this though specific sites and spaces, always mindful of how ideas emerge and are felt through specific bodies. This has led to a more direct interest in the mental health experiences of young people, particularly in school settings.

I am committed to public engagement and outreach, and recently collaborated with the Arts and Heritage Team of the Swansea Bay and University Health Board and colleagues at Swansea University on a project to document the history of Cefn Coed Mental Hospital in Swansea. This resulted in an exhibition at the Swansea Museum, entitled Cefn Coed Remembered, which captured the working life of the hospital from 1932 to 2018.

I also have a long-term interest in ethics and methods. Researching hard-to-reach groups like children and psychiatric patients who often do not have a clear voice in archive records, raises important questions about ethics and representation. This has led me to explore critical archive methods as well as creative methods for working with young people in contemporary settings. I am a member of Aberystwyth University’s Ethics Panel.      

Research Students

  • Aidan Hesslewood (2008) Reconstituting troublesome youth in Newcastle upon Tyne: theorising exclusion in the night-time economy (University of Hull)
  • Joe Hall (2014) Emerging geographies of education: programmes of gender and sexualities equalities in English primary schools (ESRC Open Competition, University of Hull)
  • Martine Robinson (2017) Couples' management of lifestyle change after diagnosis with coronary heart disease (self-funded, Psychology)
  • Eleri Phillips (current) Welsh woodlands as sites of therapeutic experience and social engagement (KESS II studentship, Geography) 
  • Emily Jacques (current) Masculine performance in the night time economy (self-funded, Psychology)
  • Rachel Solnik (current) Recognising whiteness in the diverse economy (ESRC) 


DGES service

  • First Year Tutor
  • MA Coordinator 

Disciplinary service

  • Editorial Board Member: Children's Geographies
  • Membership Secretary: Gender and Feminist Geography Research Group (RGS-IBG)

University service 

  • University Ethics Panel member


I teach across a broad range of human geography and sociology topics. I contribute to the first and second year curriculum with introductory social and cultural geography, more advanced cultural and historical geography, concepts for geographers, introduction to social theory, and concepts for sociologists. I also coordinate the MA programme and teach advanced geographic concepts and qualitative methods. At the individual and small group level, I lead dissertation tutorials and supervise undergraduate, MA and Ph.D. dissertations on a variety of topics including, young people's geographies, psychological governance, gender and identity, education and emotions, mental health and wellbeing, and the history of mental health. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


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