Dr Kelly Fagan Robinson

Lecturer in Medical Anthropology at Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge


Robinson’s research focuses on the senses, disability, communication and social access. It foregrounds the ways that individual histories, bodies, sensorial hierarchies, education, and experiences of formalised care can generate epistemic dissonances and injustices for British people.

Robinson’s Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship project, Communication Faultlines on the Frontlines (2021-2024), will look at definitions of 'support' and support entitlement across British society - including in schools, within the rhertoric of post-Brexit EU resettlement, and in AI assessment of disability/incapacity at the frontlines of funding and benefits provisions, particularly in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

Her social anthropology doctoral research (University College London), entitled Looking to Listen (awarded an ESRC/AHRC multidisciplinary grant in Public Policy and Heritage), investigated institutional reception of – or resistance to – deaf-centred communication practices. Her broader research focuses on the ways that social relations contribute to constructions of categories of personhood, and how these definitions inform knowledge-making particularly within systems of care. She incorporates the ways that embedded perceptions of bodily alterity contribute to inequalities, as well as how communication influences knowledge-making processes and value judgements within health and social care in the UK and internationally.

Robinson’s work on the CRUK project, 'Elusive Risks', has helped to re-contextualise the category of 'hard-to-reach’ populations within the contexts of cancer, risk and care. This project has facilitated greater understanding of various seldom-heard peoples' concerns about screening and other early detection programmes, which in turn has fostered development of insights into communication of risks and prevention of infectious diseases, as well as more effective use of existing community networks in contact-tracing initiatives during the Covid19 pandemic.

Since 2018, Robinson has also worked as research associate and lecturer on the British Academy Advanced Newton Fellowship, “Living with Disabilities,” at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, focusing on Disability anthropology and epistemic differences. As part of this project she has conducted seminars and workshops in the UK and Brazil around inclusive multimodal methodologies, inequality, and marginality in various global contexts for multilingual audiences (spoken and signed languages). She lectures on techniques of multimodal attention and analysis as ways of thinking through the complex constitution of language differences and related inequalities in healthcare. She is a Visiting Lecturer and Honorary Research Associate in Anthropology at UCL and lectures in the UCL medical school. She holds an NVQ 6 in British Sign Language.

Robinson leads a Skills Exchange for the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED/CRUK), addressing communication gaps between Medical Anthropology and statistically-driven Risk Prevention modelling, to broaden understanding and energise new approaches to cancer research.