Brianne Wenning

I was born in a small town in Indiana, USA. I loved learning and voraciously devoured books and educational television programmes, driving my family to the brink of exasperation with my never-ending tirade of: “Did you know…’ 

My academic career began at DePauw University in Indiana, where I received a full-ride scholarship due to my high school academic record. I always knew that I wanted to be an anthropologist. Fortunately, DePauw allowed me to explore all facets of anthropology from biological anthropology and archaeology (even providing me the opportunity to participate in a dig in Greece) through to linguistic anthropology (studying Australian Aboriginal language in South Australia) and the one that resonated most with me: medical anthropology. I paired this major with a minor in psychology, prompting my first piece of research on perceptions of depression on an American college campus. 

From there I hopped across the pond to begin my MSc in Medical Anthropology from Durham University, UK. While the world of epigenetics enticed, I still found myself drawn to the lived experiences of those with mental health conditions. After discussions with several staff members, I was given the details of some key informants who were, or worked with, refugee and asylum seeker women in the North East of England. My dissertation looked at the impact of social and political conditions on mental health through narratives.  

I moved to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for my doctoral studies. I traded my topic from poor mental health outcomes of asylum-seeking to what factors contributed to positive well-being, resilience and even happiness among refugees and asylum seekers.  This research took me further afield: I spent three months in Cameroon, a year in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England and a further eight months in the Gambia. I engaged in ethnography and conducted interviews to explore the ways in which people search for meaning, engage with others and strive for happiness in the present and future. 

This research made me think more critically about my own well-being. During the writing up phase I discovered an untapped passion for fitness that led to me earning first my Level 2 in Gym Instructing and then my Level 3 in Personal Training. In 2019, I completed my first ever Strongwoman competition as well as my first half marathon.  

As a Lecturer in Global Health in the ECLIPSE team, I will be advising on the incorporation of medical anthropological theories and ethnographic approaches throughout the different phases of the project.