Professor Bethan Evans PhD

Professor of Human Geography Geography and Planning


    Research Overview

    My research is, broadly speaking, driven by a concern with the ways in which particular spaces and institutional policies and practices produce and reinforce ideas about acceptable forms of embodiment. I’m interested in how spaces and institutions are experienced differently by different people, and in thinking about how we might create more inclusive spaces. My previous work has explored this in relation to fatness, including work on the (bio)politics of anti-obesity policies in schools, public health, urban planning, and geographic scholarship, and on the ways in which social, material and political economic factors interact in spaces of commercial air travel in ways that produce symbolic and material violence for fat passengers. My research has also considered the role of friendship and curiosity in relation to place-based understandings of wellbeing, has explored the geographies of youth and engaging young people in political histories, has considered the embodied politics of research on fatness, and the potential for fat studies and fat activism to play a part in the development of the Critical Medical Humanities. Most recently, I’ve been working with 'Chronic Illness Inclusion' (CII) to look at gendered experiences of disbelief and disregard within health and social care for people in England living with Energy Limiting Chronic Illness (ELCI). Theoretically, my work lies at the intersection of feminist, post-structural, queer and crip theory and contributes to work in Human Geography and interdisciplinary fields such as Fat Studies and the Critical Medical Humanities. I am committed to research done in partnership with people, activists and third sector organisations and have been lucky to work with some fantastic activists, artists, youth-led and disabled people’s organisations.

    Energy Limiting Chronic Illness / Energy Limiting Conditions in Health and Social Care

    Through collaboration with the Disabled People’s Organisation Chronic Illness Inclusion (CII), Morag Rose, Ana Bê Periera (Liverpool Hope University), Catherine Hale, Anna Ruddock and Alison Allam, I am researching the gendered lived experience of health and social care for people with Energy Limiting Chronic Illness/ Energy Limiting Conditions (ELC/I). This work is funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Grant. ELC/I are conditions characterised by debilitating fatigue (e.g. ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia, Long Covid, Neurological and Autoimmune conditions, amongst others). Using qualitative survey data from a consultation run by CII documenting women, trans and non-binary people’s experiences of health and social care in England, this project looks at the ways in which patriarchal histories of medicine continue to be felt in the form of institutionalised disbelief in medical consultations. We are also interested in the impact that disbelief from medical professionals has on people’s wider lives in terms of relationships with family and friends, access to reasonable adjustments in education or work, access to benefits, and people’s sense of self and psychological well-being. Theoretically we’re interested in these experiences as forms of ‘epistemic injustice’ and are exploring how feminist, queer, critical race and crip theory can help us understand these forms of injustice. This project also aims to make recommendations on how key institutions can better support people with ELC/I. More information about the project is available here.

    Flying while Fat and Biopolitics and critical geographies of anti-obesity health and education policy

    Flying while Fat:
    Through collaboration with Stacy Bias, and Rachel Colls, our research has explored the exclusionary spaces of commercial air travel for fat* people. Based on qualitative survey and interview data, we have explored the ways in which the material spaces of the plane (e.g. seat sizes) combine with hostile social attitudes towards fat people on planes and the ways in which these relate to the political economies of commercial air travel. Theoretically we’ve explored this through work on embodied dys-appearance and queer phenomenology to understand how plane spaces make fat bodies hyperpresent and through trans, queer and crip theory to understand the ways in which the basic needs and rights of fat people are denied in commercial air travel. We have also looked at the implications of the limited space afforded on commercial aircraft for the health and wellbeing of fat people. As well as academic papers, a key output from this work was an animation produced by Stacy Bias.

    *Fat activists have worked to reclaim fat as a term of pride. As such, we use the term fat rather than pathologizing terms such as overweight or obesity.

    Biopolitics and critical geographies of anti-obesity health and education policy:
    My work critically explores the (bio)politics surrounding health and education policy in relation to a range of theoretical debates. A particular focus for my work has been anti-obesity policy, in relation to three specific areas: first education policy and the role of children's bodies within pre-emptive health policy; secondly urban governance and design and the role of planning professionals in health policy; and thirdly, working with Rachel Colls, challenging the ways in which geographical work on obesogenic environments pathologises fat bodies and spaces. Core to this research has been collaborations with fat activists. Some of this work was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through an ESRC research project 'Designing Out Fatness: The Built Environment in Anti Obesity Policy' and an ESRC seminar series grant titled 'Fat Studies and Health At Every Size: Bigness Beyond Obesity'.

    Curiosity and Wellbeing and Geographies of Young People

    Curiosity and Wellbeing:
    In collaboration with Richard Phillips, a Wellcome Trust small grant allowed us to explore the role of creativity in relation to wellbeing. The project focused on initiatives funded through the Decade of Health and Wellbeing in Liverpool which promoted ‘five ways to well being’, one of which is ‘take notice, be curious…be aware of the world around you’. Through interviews with organisations delivering projects funded through this initiative, we have particularly explored the ways in which place is mobilised as a means to improve wellbeing in relation to memory box and befriending projects for people living with dementia, community gardening, and urban photography. Through this work we’ve looked at the ways in which friendship and connections with others, as well as connections to the micro-geographies of places through ordinary things (e.g. found objects, insects, mud) help us understand wellbeing in relational terms. This work draws on, and contributes to, work in geography on therapeutic environments, exploring curiosity as a means to understand the relationship between people and places.

    Geographies of Young People:
    My work on anti-obesity education policy outlined also speaks to an additional theme in my research: geographies of young people. My PhD research began my work in this area, through exploring gendered experiences of physical education and health initiatives in relation to body image for teenagers in Liverpool schools. Building on this, my work has also explored how we understand youth and young people within geography. A further project funded by the British Academy, in collaboration with Matt Benwell, Andy Davies and Catherine Wilkinson used participatory methods to work with a group of young people to produce a radio documentary about the riots in the 1980s in Liverpool. This radio documentary can be accessed online here.

    Research Grants

    Future of Health and Social Care for people with ELCI


    July 2023 - July 2024

    Cripping the Exhaustion Economy: Radically Reimagining the Neoliberal Academy from the Sick Bed.


    September 2023 - August 2024

    The lived experience of energy limiting chronic illness


    April 2022 - May 2024

    Young people and stories of the riots: Liverpool 1981 and 2011


    July 2012 - September 2013

    Value in People Award 2005.


    October 2005 - September 2009

    Research Collaborations

    Kathrin Horschelmann

    External: Durham University

    Joint research project and joint paper

    Tim Edensor

    External: Manchester Metropolitan University

    Co-authored book chapter

    Jon Binnie

    External: Manchester Metropolitan University

    Co-authored book chapter

    Julian Holloway

    External: Manchester Metropolitan University

    Co-authored book chapter

    Richard Phillips


    Joint research grant application to the Wellcome Trust

    Steve Millington

    External: Manchester Metropolitan University

    Co-authored book chapter

    Charlotte Cooper

    External: University of Limerick

    Co-I on ESRC seminar series

    Jon Coaffee

    External: University of Birmingham

    Joint ESRC project

    Shirlene Badger

    External: Anglia Polytechnic University

    Co-I on ESRC seminar series

    Corinna Tomrley

    External: University of York

    Co-I on ESRC seminar series

    Lucy Aphramor

    External: Coventry University

    Co-I on ESRC seminar series

    Lee Monaghan

    External: University of Limerick

    Co-I on ESRC seminar series

    Karen Throsby

    External: University of Warwick

    Co-I on ESRC seminar series

    Rachel Colls

    External: The University of Durham

    Collaboration on research publications, conference session organisation, special issue editing and co-I on ESRC seminar series



    SES steering group representative on Liverpool Obesity Research Network (LORN)

    Clare Thetford


    Collaboration on Wellcome VIP funded project ¿Bridging the knowledge.behaviour gap: young people and STIs¿ (with Prof. Bill Gould). Continued collaboration re. outputs from this project.

    Lynne Kennedy


    Co-holdres of Wellcome VIP grant ¿Disordered eating: disordered bodies? A pilot project in considering children's experiences of referral procedures for childhood obesity¿

    Emma Rich

    External: Loughborough University

    Collaboration on research publications; Co-I on ESRC seminar series

    John Evans

    External: Loughborough University

    Collaboration on research publications