Circumcision on the Couch: The Cultural, Psychological and Gendered Dimensions of the World’s Oldest Surgery

29th of September, in The Old Operating Theatre, Jordan Osserman talked about his recent book Circumcision On the Couch. The evening was illuminated by short art performances by Martin O’Brien and FYTA, and a discussion with Professor Lisa Baraitser.

“Penises, and the things people do with them, have been subjects of controversy for a long time. Jordan Osserman’s recently published book Circumcision on the Couch draws on the discipline of psychoanalysis to examine how one thing that some people do to penises – surgically remove the foreskin – has become a site upon which vital questions of gender, race, religion, sexuality, and psychic life are negotiated. In this event, Jordan and his invited guests will make use of the Old Operating Theatre’s incredible surgical setting to bring to life some major themes of the book: the nineteenth-century transformation of circumcision from a religious rite to a medical procedure designed to cure ‘nervous illness’; the psychological dynamics of contemporary anti-circumcision activism (‘intactivism’); and the psychoanalytical theories that address the symbolic significance of the phallic ‘cut’. The event will include two short performances by internationally acclaimed artists Martin O’Brien and FYTA which will address contemporary debates around circumcision and gender politics, and a discussion with Professor Lisa Baraitser about the book”.


Martin O’Brien, photo by Alma Daskalaki

Jordan Osserman and FYTA, photo by Alma Daskalaki


Jordan Osserman is a Lecturer in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex and a psychoanalyst in formation. His research interests include the medical humanities, the Lacanian tradition of psychoanalysis, left-wing politics, and gender/sexuality studies.
Martin O’Brien is an artist and scholar, concerned with the performance and representation of illness and disability. His artistic practice uses physical endurance, hardship and pain-based practices to challenge common representations of illness and to examine what it means to be born with a life-threatening disease. He is a member of the Waiting Times project and has performed at venues including the Tate Britain, ICA, and ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, and has been commissioned by organizations including Arts Council England and British Council.
FYTA are an Athens- and London-based conceptual and performance art duo comprised of artists and academics Dr Foivos Dousos and Dr Fil Ieropoulous. Their interdisciplinary work draws on queer and psychoanalytic ideas to question and destabilize notions of truth, national belonging, and naturality. They have performed/exhibited in venues including the Freud Museum, the Whitechapel Gallery, and the Athens Biennale; most recently they were commissioned by the Greek National Opera to stage a queer rendition of Orpheus.
Lisa Baraitseris Professor of Psychosocial Theory in the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, and co-PI of the Waiting Times project, a five-year cycle of research on temporality and care in health contexts. She is the author of an award-winning monograph, Maternal Encounters: The Ethics of Interruption(2009) andEnduring Time(2017). Her work is concerned with gender and temporality, focusing on a range of durational practices and social projects (psychoanalysis, mothering, care, incarceration, activism) in a bid to understand affective survival in late liberal conditions.

This event was generously supported by the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex, and the Waiting Times project.

‘Queuing for Britain: What are we Waiting For?’ by Laura Salisbury and Lisa Baraitser

Britain may be less united in mourning the death of the Queen than portions of the media would like to suggest, but somehow the epic queue to file past her coffin mattered. The Queue was a sign of national grief, we were told. Its orderly length was peak Britishness. The Queue represented an urge to feel part of history being made. The Queue was a spectacle that was consciously being managed to produce the feeling of a nation united.

People tutted at celebrities who appeared to have jumped the Queue, or praised the levelling effect of a structure that forced David Beckham to wait with all the other ‘subjects’. Other voices pointed out that standing in line for over a day to pay one’s respects to a figurehead whose riches were literally (and strategically) untold, is a deeply ambiguous expression of equality.

Maybe what mattered most about the Queue to see Queen Elizabeth II lying-in-state, though, was its representation of a form of benign waiting. The Queue evoked an atmosphere of sacrifice and service that drew together the monarch and ‘her people’ under a sense of continuity and tradition that seemed to mean something to many. The Queue also looked, and seemed to feel, like a glimpse of a sense of community, half imagined, half real but passed over, where people would ‘look after’ each other. Although queuing is an ordering structure based on very strict hierarchies, people spoke of putting others’ needs – for snacks or clothing or cheery conversation – temporarily ahead of themselves.

We are told, over and again, that our contemporary society of instant access and 24-7 availability means that we no longer know how to wait. In the Queue, however, we had a representation of patience returned to its etymological root of endurance, even suffering. Although religious practices structured by waiting for deliverance and a better world to come have lost much of their force in a more secular society, the Queue to see a figurehead who was, anachronistically, both the Head of State and of the Church of England, echoed with religious and spiritual affects, if not necessarily always with their beliefs.

Of course, the idea that late stage capitalism means that we have lost our ability to wait is grimly contradicted by the reality of contemporary Britain.[1] As NHS waiting lists for elective surgery are at record levels and everyday bits of care like seeing (or speaking to) a GP or dentist become tests of endurance, waiting is a grinding reality for most. People in the gig economy lead working lives structured by frenetic activity and periods of unpaid inactivity, as they wait to service the demands of other people’s clocks.[2] People wait, pedalling on hamster wheels of maddening bureaucracy, for care packages delivered by hollowed-out, contracted-out services that councils are no longer resourced to afford.[3] People wait to find out if they can survive the coming winter.

One thing the Queue made clear is that waiting – the long and painful experience of extended time that does not pass – can be transfigured into a more manageable state by a belief that what we are waiting for will, in the end, be delivered. Waiting is also structured and managed by narratives that shape experiences of suffering into ideas of sacrifice. People can wait and endure in the name of something they understand to have an importance that reaches beyond the themselves. People can wait for the idea of the service of the Queen that her lying-in-state represents. People waited to ‘Protect the NHS’ during the COVID lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 beyond what most behavioural scientists advised was possible at the beginning of the pandemic.[4] And as we learned during lockdown, time that does not pass easily is made more bearable when waiting becomes a shared, collective practice, and the overarching waiting for of a grand project is grounded and made possible through small, everyday caring acts of waiting with others.[5]

One might accurately read the Queue as structure that manages and disciplines the time of a period of mourning, producing the optics of a sense of historical continuity with the institutions and practices the Queen represented. But in terms of what Raymond Williams named ‘structures of feeling’,[6] the culture of the Queue also evoked affects of collectivity, service, and even the ambiguous equality of being a ‘subject’ that reached beyond our current times and the capitalist structures that have penetrated most aspects of British life.

Other feelings are available, of course, despite some of the crude attempts to police them. For many, the British monarch’s death represented a moment when the reality of the violence of Empire must be faced, alongside the extractivism on which capitalism, inextricably bound to colonialism, has fed and through which it continues to flourish. Not all waiting is benign. As historian Dipesh Chakrabarty has described it, colonised nations were forced into the waiting room of history while British interests were served.[7] Martin Luther King also insisted that suggestions that Black Americans should wait a little longer for emancipation would not do when ‘“Wait” has almost always meant “Never”’.[8] As those living on with the consequences of colonisation know all too well, being asked to wait when lives might be preserved by being attended to, or being asked to wait in pain while the resources to alleviate it are being withheld or funnelled elsewhere, is political violence.

Waiting in and for the NHS tells us much about the violence of waiting, but it also tells us about possibilities for something else – possibilities for care.[9] Since its inception, there have been concerns about waiting times in the NHS as they became the explicit responsibility of the State. In the early decades of the NHS, new technologies like appointment systems were introduced to rid GP practices of queues that sometimes stretched well out of the door. Appointment systems, which might also have been used to manage the current Queue, were introduced to take care of the doctors’ time first, and then the patients’, producing more timely access to care and fewer working hours lost.[10]

It was during the 1980s and 90s that long waiting times became a specific marker of failure in the NHS. In the period defined by so-called ‘Targets and Terror’, little was left of the shared post-war idea that there was a benign or necessary form of waiting, say, for spectacles or false teeth, as the new NHS slowly repaired the damage to the nation’s health produced by previous unequal access to treatment.[11] Instead, as the historian of the queue, Joe Moran, has argued, by the 1970s and 1980s queueing was associated with faltering communist regimes. It was no coincidence that the iconic Saatchi and Saatchi poster campaign commissioned by the Conservative Party in 1978 and 1979 used an image of a queue to represent the ruling government’s failed socialism. The queue meant, simply, ‘Labour isn’t working’.[12]

But in the early years of the NHS, for many British citizens waiting in a queue for healthcare was a scene of possibility and change. To be waiting meant that you were now a patient of the NHS who would, in the end, be seen, rather than someone who could never afford to call the doctor out. The queue, whether literal or in the form of a waiting list, signalled a form of care that aimed to manage need rather than to service the ability to pay.[13] And new structures of feeling and identifications slowly emerged in which there was an NHS to wait for, albeit a highly imperfect one, and others to wait with.[14]

This NHS could not have been built and staffed without the labour of British ‘subjects’ from decolonised and decolonising nations.[15] Indeed, the wealth to provide a Welfare State at all in the UK was born over centuries from industries thoroughly dependent on Empire. Nevertheless, being asked to wait and even to queue for the NHS, and the Welfare State more broadly, produced something progressive that is worth holding on to. Waiting did not simply mean ‘never’; instead, it was structured by a collective sense of ‘looking after’ others who had been placed ahead by a service that aimed to allocate care according to need. If a commitment to care and the allocation of resources is to be genuinely underpinned by principles of justice and equality, which would include attending to the injustices of the past and the present and taking care of the future, then the process of ‘looking after’ will require renewed forms of collective action. But it will likely also require new forms of collective waiting, of holding back, perhaps even of queueing. Instead of imagining that waiting must always be reduced through processes of restructuring, privatising, and the delivery of services for profit under the pressures of market forces, perhaps we might use some of the structures of feeling that underpin the capacity to wait to prioritise a collective commitment to care, service, and to justice. That would surely be worth waiting for.


Laura Salisbury and Lisa Baraitser.

18 September, 2022.



[1] Lisa Baraitser, Enduring Time (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).

[2] Sarah Sharma, In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics (Durham: Duke UP, 2014).

[3] For an account of this dynamic that has only intensified in the last decade, see Ivor Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia (London: Zero Books, 2011).

[4] Ulrike Hahn et al, ‘Why a Group of Behavioural Scientists Penned an Open Letter to the U.K. Government Questioning Its Coronavirus Response’, Behavioural Scientist, 16 March 2020

[5] Lisa Baraitser and Laura Salisbury, ‘Containment, Delay, Mitigation: Waiting and Care in the Time of a Pandemic’Waiting and Care in Pandemic Times, Wellcome Open Research, 2020.

[6] Raymond Williams, ‘Culture is Ordinary’, (1958), Resources of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism (London: Verso, 1989), pp.

[7] Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), p. 8.

[8] Martin Luther King, Why We Can’t Wait, (1964) (London: Penguin, 2018), p. 91.

[9] See Lisa Baraitser and William Brook, ‘Watchful Waiting: Temporalities of crisis and care in the UK National Health Service’, Vulnerability and the Politics of Care: Transdisciplinary Dialogues, ed. Victoria Browne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).

[10] Martin D Moore, ‘Waiting for the Doctor: Managing Time and Emotion in the British National Health Service, 1948–80’, Twentieth Century British History, 33, 2, (2022), pp. 203–229

[11] With thanks to Martin D Moore for this point.

[12] Joe Moran, ‘Queuing up in Post-War Britain’, Twentieth Century British History, 16, 3, (2005), 283-305.

[13] Martin D Moore, ‘Waiting for the Doctor: Managing Time and Emotion in the British National Health Service’, 1948–80. Twentieth Century British History, 33,2 (2022), pp. 203-229.

[14] See, Mathew Thomson, ‘The NHS and the Public: A Historical Perspective’,

[15] See Roberta Bivins, ‘Picturing Race in the British National Health Service 1948-1988’, Twentieth Century British History, 28, 1, (2017).


New Thinking: Waiting. A conversation with Dr Michael Flexer and Professor Victoria Tischler

Waiting is an inevitable part of life, whether it’s in the waiting room of a GP surgery or waiting for lockdown to end.

As part of the Waiting Times project, Dr Michael Flexer, a publicly engaged research fellow at the University of Exeter, explores different concepts of waiting and suggests that some forms of waiting – for seeds to grow, for the curtain to rise in a theatre – can be positive.

Professor Victoria Tischler is from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter and co-investigator of the Pandemic and Beyond project. During lockdown her project Culture Box sent out packages to care home residents filled with activities: watercolour paints, seeds, guides to birdsong. She shares her thoughts on how these activities changed the recipients’ relationship to time.

This episode was made in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UKRI. You can find a collection of episodes focused on New Research on the Free Thinking programme website on BBC Radio 3.

Producer: Tim Bano


Listen on BBC Radio 3

Swati Joshi, ‘Proprioceptive Care and the work of Samuel Beckett’. Monday 18th July 2022

Swati Joshi, a Doctoral Fellow of Medical Humanities at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar will give a talk ‘Proprioceptive Care and the work of Samuel Beckett’ at the University of Exeter.

1-2pm, Monday 18th July,
Board Room, Wellcome Centre for the Cultures and Environments of Health
University of Exeter

or online

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 946 4370 8069
Password: 971968




Parapraxis Conversations: On The Maternal. 9-10th July 2022

A Conversation on “The Maternal.” Part of a recurring lecture series centered on keywords in psychosocial thought.

Join The Psychosocial Foundation and Parapraxis for a conversation on “The Maternal” with Dr. Joy James, Dr. Lisa Baraitser, and Dr. Sarah Knott. Moderated by Dr. Hannah Zeavin.

Tickets are sliding-scale. Your contributions fund our continued work at The Psychosocial Foundation, including Parapraxis Magazine. To learn more about the whole series, click here. To learn more about Parapraxis , click here.

Date and time:

Sat, Jul 9, 2022, 6:00 PM –

Sun, Jul 10, 2022, 7:30 AM BST


Online event

Book Tickets 

Time for Emancipation: Poetry, Waiting, Repair. 26 May 2022

Symposium and workshop on the elusive concept of freedom, and exploring how we write about it. In-person.

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

Book your place

Jenny Mitchell, award-winning writer and Artist in Association at Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS), will facilitate a supportive 3-hour creative writing session in the morning of this day-long event, that looks at how we write about the elusive concept of freedom. What draws us to writing about freedom? What might it offer the writer and reader? Is it particularly important to think about freedom in a world so filled with subjugation, tyranny and chaos?

This is a participatory creative writing session and participants will be given examples of work by established poets to discuss; and prompts to stimulate their own writing.

This is followed by an afternoon symposium that explores questions of care and repair, reflecting on the waiting time between enslavement and emancipation from the perspective of Black British women. Jenny Mitchell offers new poems that retell the story of Jane Eyre from the perspective of a free 19th century woman of colour, questioning the role of servant or caregiver that women of colour are stereotypically forced to inhabit in relation to a dominant white culture that offers little care in return. Poets, historians and literary scholars will discuss the issues the poems raise – relations between Black and white women, freedom, and elongated modes of ‘waiting’, and poetry as a radical form of care and repair.

The symposium is a collaboration between Arts Week, Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS), and Waiting Times, a Wellcome Trust funded research collaboration that is re-evaluating the relation between time and healthcare in the modern period. The symposium will be followed by a wine reception to celebrate Jenny Mitchell’s role as Artist-in-Association at BiGS, and her new collection of poems.

Participants can book for the whole day, or can attend just one session (either the poetry workshop or the symposium).      

Poetry workshop 10am – 1pm
Symposium 2pm – 5pm

Jenny Mitchell is an award-winning poet and workshop facilitator. Her second collection, Map of a Plantation, is winner of the Poetry Book Awards 2021. She won the Bedford International Poetry Prize 2021, the Ware Prize 2020, the Folklore and Aryamati Prizes, a Bread and Roses Award and several other competitions. A debut collection, Her Lost Language, is joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize and was voted One of 44 Books of 2019 (Poetry Wales). She is an Artist in Association at Birkbeck currently working on a pamphlet and third collection.

Roy McFarlane is a Poet, Playwright and former Youth & Community Worker born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage, living in Brighton. He is the National Canal Laureate and has held the role of Birmingham Poet Laureate. His debut collection, Beginning With Your Last Breath, was followed by The Healing Next Time, (Nine Arches Press 2018) nominated for the Ted Hughes award and Jhalak Prize. His third collection Living by Troubled Waters is due out October 2022.  It includes a series of erasure poems drawing on narratives of the enslaved across the African diaspora, found in newspapers and posters in England and the Caribbean, post 1807.

Keith Jarrett is a writer, performer and educator whose work explores Caribbean British identity, religion and sexuality. Keith teaches at NYU London and is completing his debut novel.

S.I. Martin works with museums, archives and the education sector to bring diverse histories to wider audiences. He has published five books of historical fiction and non-fiction for adult and teenage readers.

Olivia Carpenter is Lecturer in Literature at the University of York. Her research focuses on Black Studies, Critical Race Theory and literary history. Her recent monograph on Black marriage in domestic fiction in the late 18th and early 19th century gives an account of how the politics of slavery and Abolition influenced the novel as a genre during the height of Abolition struggles in British courts, as well as Black resistance to slavery in both Britain and the colonies.

Lisa Baraitser is Professor of Psychosocial Theory in the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck. She is the Co-Principal Investigator, with Laura Salisbury, of Waiting Times, a Wellcome Trust-funded collaborative award investigating the relation between time and care in the modern period. She has written widely on motherhood, psychoanalysis, time and care.

Kelechi Anucha
Kelechi is PhD candidate on the Wellcome-funded Waiting Times project. She is an associate member of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at University of Exeter and a member of the Black Health and Humanities Network. Her project examines time and care in contemporary end-of-life narratives, exploring the relationship between untimeliness, literary form and the politics of health.


This event takes place in-person at Birkbeck’s School of Arts, as part of Arts Week 2022.

Communication about this event will be sent from Do check your Spam/Junk/Other inbox if you are looking for emails from this address.

Laura Salisbury talk at “Trans Healthcare: Past, Present & What Might Have Been” seminar. 26 Apr 2022

Part of a broader project on Trans Healthcare and Creativity, this event will explore the past, present and ‘what might have been’ of trans healthcare provision in the UK. What is trans healthcare now, what has it been, and what could it be?

Join us for a roundtable discussion with contributions from speakers from a range of disciplines and practices, including:

Ellis J. Johnson (he/him) is a psychodynamic psychotherapeutic counsellor, supervisor, trainer, consultant and group facilitator, working mainly alongside transgender, non-binary, queer or questioning people. As a transgender man of mixed-heritage, Ellis is passionate about attending to the intersections of race, class, and coloniality in his work; he holds a particular interest in decolonising our understandings of gender, sexuality and spirituality. He delivers training in trans inclusion and anti-racist practice to organisations and therapists across the UK and internationally.

Stephen Whittle OBE is Professor of Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 1992, Stephen was a co-founder of Press for Change (PFC), the UK’s trans rights lobby group. PFC’s very successful campaigns have resulted in several major case law successes at the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, which have led to significant legal changes since the mid-1990s, including the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and full protection under the Equality Act 2010. Stephen has advised on transgender rights and law to the UK, Scottish, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Hong Kong, and South African governments, as well as the European Union & the Commission, and the Council of Europe. He regularly advises lawyers and writes briefs, or is an expert witness, for courts worldwide. He has authored many academic papers, non-academic articles, several books and writes a regular blog.

Krishna Istha is a London-based screenwriter, comedian, performance artist and theatre maker. They make socially conscious, form-pushing works about taboo or underrepresented experiences of gender, race and sexual politics. Currently, they are writing on Sex Education (Netflix), is a Barbican Centre Open Lab artist (2022), and is part of the writing team at Die Gute Fabrik (a Copenhagen-based games studio). More recently, they co-directed Jazz and Dice by Naked Productions for BBC Radio 4, was an Arts Admin Bursary Artist (2020-21), and came Runner-Up on Screenshot (a competition for comedy writer-performers hosted by Sister Pictures and South of the River Pictures).

Laura Salisbury is a Professor in Medicine and English Literature at the University of Exeter. She has research and teaching interests in modernist, postmodernist and contemporary fiction; medical humanities; philosophies of temporality, ethics and affect; psychoanalysis; neuroscience and language. With Lisa Baraitser (Birkbeck) she is joint PI on a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award called ‘Waiting Times’ (2017-2022), a project working to uncover what it means to wait in and for healthcare. She is currently writing a cultural history of waiting in modernity.

Ruth Pearce is a trans health activist and Lecturer in Community Development at the University of Glasgow. Her work explores issues of inequality, marginalisation, power, and transformative political struggle from a trans feminist perspective. She has conducted research on trans health services in the UK, international alternatives to traditional gender clinics, and trans people’s experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. She is the author of “Understanding Trans Health”, plus co-editor of “The Emergence of Trans” and “TERF Wars”. Ruth also plays bass in noise-pop band wormboys, shouts a lot in queer punk trio Dispute Settlement Mechanism, and blogs at

This event is accompanied by a writing workshop for trans, non-binary and GNC writers on Friday 29 April, led by Juliet Jacques:

Trans Healthcare and Creativity is funded by the University of Manchester. Our aim is to contribute to current conversations about trans healthcare provision in the UK whilst advocating for the role of creativity in imagining future models of care. Our second event will take place on Tuesday 7th June, on the theme of ‘Possible Futures’. To contact us, email:

18:00-20:00 26 Apr 2022

The event is FREE. Please register via Eventbrite.

Acland Burghley School’s Workshop in collaboration with Sally Booth, Peltz Gallery and Waiting Times project


A few weeks back I had the amazing opportunity to go into Acland Burghley School for a collaboration between the Peltz Gallery, The Waiting Times Project, artist Sally Booth, and a group of year 11 students in the art classes. The goal was to begin an early relationship with the school in the hopes to do a great deal more collaboration in the future. Overall it was quite a success! To tie into the current Time Being exhibit at the Peltz and the larger theme of the Waiting Times project we asked Sally Booth to come in a craft a workshop for the students. Over a 4 hour workshop we spoke with the students about the Peltz and when they could come to the exhibit, gave an overview of the exhibit Time Being and a rundown on what Waiting Times was researching around themes of waiting and care. After Sally introduced herself and her work and talked the students through her process as an artist and the ways she has learned to navigate the world, we moved into the project for the day. The work Sally did with the students was to create concertina pieces where they collaborated in pairs to build their work. Here began a great discussion with the students on the ideas around waiting and care and what it meant for them to wait and how to look forward. Questions came up such as when have you had to wait? When have you had to be patient and resilient? Waiting for appointments, for a birthday, to go on holiday, to go out,  to see their friends, waiting for COVID to end?  What do you look forward to? A special place? To be more independent? To go somewhere new, to do something fun? Jumping off from this chat we quickly lead the students into work to settle on a theme for their concertina piece. Students found a multitude of ways to pick a time they had to wait and to work that into the piece they were creating while also finding ways to collaborate that piece with a partner. Some ideas they crafted were waiting for public transit, a groom waiting for his bride, a pig waiting for slaughter, a bird waiting to take flight, and waiting for family to visit. At the end of the session, the students grouped all their concertina pieces together and curated a layout that wrapped around the room with their beautiful work. Before leaving the students were encouraged to come to the exhibit and sit more with the themes of the project. Peltz is hoping to collaborate further with the art team at Acland Burghley, to continue doing workshops of this type, and to hopefully host a small student exhibit in the near future. Please enjoy some of the students’ pieces and check out the Time Being exhibit running at the Peltz Gallery. 

Emily Jewison, School of Art, Birkbeck, University of London

Time Being: An Exhibition. Ruairí Corr and Deborah Robinson, Peltz Gallery 25 February – 8 April 2022

Time Being by Ruairí Corr and Deborah Robinson

Time Being is a 14-minute film which meditates on waiting and care. In a research system that prioritises speed of production and the written word, Time Being explores how touch is also central to methods of knowledge building and creative enquiry, enabling alternative and perhaps more careful perceptions of time. It was commissioned by Waiting Times, a research project investigating time and care based at Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Exeter, and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Time Being Catalogue

Peltz Gallery
25 February – 8 April 2022
Monday to Friday, 10am⁠-8pm
Closed on weekends

Free entry. Booking essential.

For more information and booking visit the Peltz Gallery website

Time Being: An Exhibition and Seminar. 17th March 2022

Please join Lisa Baraitser, Harriet Cooper, Martin O’Brien, Rachel Purtell, Laura Salisbury and Sejal Sutaria for an evening of discussion about care and waiting centred around Time Being, a 14-minute film made by artist Deborah Robinson in collaboration with Ruairí Corr, a creative maker who works through co-production.

Time Being offers a sensory exploration of what it means to wait. Deborah writes, “working with Ruairí encouraged me to slow my pace to match with his, to let go of pre-set ideas and pay careful attention to qualities in the footage gathered – a path that led to a film structure organised around touch, materials and sound.” Through holding and containing time differently, Ruairí and Deborah open up new possibilities for creative expression – for divergent, slow-forming ideas rendered inaccessible by more normative ways of being in the world and in time. Time Being tackles the crucial question of the time needed for care in a context in which time appears to be always running out.

Time Being was commissioned as part of Waiting Times, a Wellcome Trust funded research project based at Birkbeck, University of London, and the University of Exeter that brings together academics and artists to offer a fundamental re-conceptualisation of the relation between time and care in contemporary thinking about health, illness, and wellbeing.

The event will be held in person at Birkbeck in conjunction with an exhibition of the film at the Peltz Gallery, and can also be joined online. Those who attend in person will watch the film together, and then join a panel discussion with experts-by-experience, artist-researchers, and academics working across disability studies, the medical humanities, and critical time studies. Those attending online can watch an online version of the film prior to the panel discussion.


Lisa Baraitser is Professor of Psychosocial Theory, Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London. She is co-Principal Investigator of the Waiting Times project, and has written widely on time and care.

Harriet Cooper is Lecturer in Medical Education (Sociology) at the University of East Anglia. She works at the intersection of medical humanities, disability studies and applied qualitative health research and is the author of Critical Disability Studies and the Disabled Child: Unsettling Distinctions (Routledge, 2020),

Martin O’Brien is Senior Lecturer in Live Art at QMUL and a performance artist and scholar whose work is concerned with the performance and representation of illness and disability. He uses physical endurance, hardship and pain-based practices to challenge common representations of illness and to examine what it means to be born with a life-threatening disease. He is recently the recipient of the 2021 Leverhulme Trust Prize in Live Arts.

Rachel Purtell is a Disabled Woman. She was the Director of at the University of Exeter, where she facilitated and supported the involvement of service users, patients or/and carers in medical and social care research to ensure that service users have a positive and meaningful impact on research, research processes, and research structures. Rachel lectures on involving people in research and on Disability Equality and delivers training using the Social Model of Disability as the central approach. She currently acts as the Critical Friend for Engaged Research at Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter and has published widely on involvement and disability issues.

Deborah Robinson is an artist working collaboratively and across disciplines with scientists, artists, biomedical experts and technologists to make installation artwork using moving image and sound. She uses experimental film-based processes to explore issues in science, health and the environment. She is Honorary Artistic Research Fellow at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, University of Exeter and previously was Associate Professor in Contemporary Art Practice at the University of Plymouth.

Laura Salisbury is Professor of Modern Literature and Medical Humanities, working between Exeter University’s Dept. of English and Film and the Wellcome Centre for the Cultures and Environments of Health. With Lisa Baraitser, she is co-Principal Investigator of Waiting Times. She has published widely in modern and contemporary literature, particularly on the work of Samuel Beckett; on neurology, psychoanalysis, and literature; and on ethics and time. She is current President of the Samuel Beckett Society.

Sejal Sutaria is a visiting-assistant professor of 20th and 21st Century Postcolonial Literature at Grinnell College, US. Prior to this she completed a Marie Curie Fellowship at King’s College, London. Her current book manuscript, Making Waves: Britain, India, and the Sounding of Postcolonial Resistance, examines how sound archives amplify our understanding of the role that globally circulating ideas, capital, and migrants played in shaping anticolonial resistance in the colony and the metropole. She has published widely including a piece about Venu Chitale to the 100 Voices that Made the BBC.

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

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