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Cambridge Public Health


I am a social anthropologist who works with adults with 'intellectual' or 'learning' disabilities that place them in need of care throughout their lives. I conduct long-term empirical ethnographic research in two contexts. First, professional care services in the UK, where I focus particularly on the complexities of caring relationships and the competing ideals of dependence and independence that shape them. Second, familial care in the South Indian state of Kerala and its intersection with medical and educational services provided by the government and NGOs. In all my work I explore the difference that different practices of care make to the lives of those who depend heavily upon others due to their mental impairments and to the networks of support that they rely on.

Publications from Elements

Journal articles

2021 (Accepted for publication)

  • McKearney, P., 2021 (Accepted for publication). Disabling violence: intellectual disability and the limits of ethical engagement Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,
    Doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.13773
  • McKearney, P. and Amrith, M., 2021 (Accepted for publication). Care The Cambridge Encylopedia of Anthropology,
  • 2021

  • McKearney, P., 2021. The Limits of Knowing Other Minds Social Analysis, v. 65
    Doi: 10.3167/sa.2020.650101
  • McKearney, P., 2021. The Ability to Judge: Critique and Surprise in Theology, Anthropology, and L’Arche Ethnos, v. 86
  • 2020 (Accepted for publication)

  • McKearney, P., 2020 (Accepted for publication). The Limits of Knowing Other Minds: Intellectual Disability and the Challenge of Opacity Social Analysis,
  • McKearney, P. and Zogas, A., 2020 (Accepted for publication). Mentally Fit: Negotiating the Boundaries of Cognitive Disability Medical Anthropology: cross-cultural studies in health and illness,
  • 2020

  • McKearney, P., 2020. What Escapes Persuasion: Why Intellectual Disability Troubles 'Dependence' in Liberal Societies. Med Anthropol,
  • McKearney, P., 2020. Challenging Care: Professionally Not Knowing What Good Care Is Anthropology and Humanism, v. 45
  • 2018

  • McKearney, PT., 2018. Receiving the Gift of Cognitive Disability: Recognizing Agency in the Limits of the Rational Subject The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology,
  • McKearney, PT., 2018. The Weight of Living: Autonomy, Care, and Responsibility for the Self Journal of Disability and Religion, v. 22
  • McKearney, PT. and Zoanni, T., 2018. Introduction: For an Anthropology of Cognitive Disability The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, v. 36
  • 2017

  • McKearney, PATRICK., 2017. L'Arche, Learning Disability, and Domestic Citizenship: Dependent Political Belonging in a Contemporary British City City & Society, v. 29
  • 2016

  • McKearney, P., 2016. The Genre of Judgment: Description and Difficulty in the Anthropology of Ethics Journal of Religious Ethics, v. 44
  • McKearney, P., 2016. The Genre of Judgment Journal of Religious Ethics, v. 44
  • Book chapters


  • Beadle, R., 1998. Appendix