I feel very privileged to lead this fantastic team as SOLACE Principal Investigator. I am a social anthropologist and I work at Keele’s School of Medicine and the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences.
I was born in Menen, a small town on the Belgian-French border, to a Greek Cypriot father and a Flemish mother. I grew up in the 1980s as a bookish girl, either quietly reading or talking too much and too fast. Not much has changed on that front! By the time I was 18 two books of my poems were out with a Flemish publisher. A literary sensation that only lasted the length of the launch and press conference. The pages of the unsold copies were later used by my siblings to write shopping lists on.
While I studied at the Universities of Leuven and Ghent, both in Belgium, I worked in a flower shop, a bakery and a chip shop (after all, this was in Belgium) and taught in different secondary schools. I hold undergraduate degrees in Education and in Art History and Archaeology and a Master’s and PhD Degree in Comparative Sciences of Cultures (i.e. sociology and social anthropology).
At University I wrote and performed, with my sister Elena Dikomitis, a theatre play about the war-torn lives of our grandmothers. We continued to collaborate on socio-artistic projects and that was perhaps more of a success than my poetry books. This collaboration certainly planted the seed to bring the arts and humanities into my scholarly work and projects like SOLACE.
There is a standing joke in my family that I started my academic career working on my father’s predicament and that I then switched to my mother’s side of the story. There is some truth in that. I grew up with a certain sensitivity for mental health issues because my mother has worked, since the early 1970s, in the same Flemish psychiatric hospital.
When I completed my fieldwork and book on Cyprus I ventured into medical anthropology and conducted ethnographic fieldwork in that very same hospital. Since then I am hooked on exploring socio-cultural aspects of health and illness, both in the UK and elsewhere, preferably using ethnographic and creative methods.
One common theme that runs throughout all my research projects is the methodological approach—qualitative research with a strong preference for ethnography. I have carried out fieldwork in Cyprus, Belgium, the United Kingdom and am looking forward to conduct fieldwork in the Philippines with the SOLACE team.