Associate Professor David Nicholls

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Associate Head of School, North.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 ext 7064


Postal Address:
School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies
Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences
AUT University, Private Bag 92006,
Auckland 1142, New Zealand

Links to relevant web pages:


PhD, MA, GradDip, SFHEA


Before moving to New Zealand in 2000 to work at AUT, David lectured at the School of Physiotherapy at Sheffield Hallam University in England, and before that he was a practicing physiotherapist specialising in the rehabilitation of people with chronic lung disease. 

David's teaching and research interests focus on critical histories of physical therapy and rehabilitation, with a strong interest in postmodern philosophy; particularly the works of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. He completed a PhD thesis titled 'Body politics: A Foucauldian discourse analysis of physiotherapy practice in 2008, and since then taught extensively across the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at AUT, and presented his research nationally and internationally.David holds leading researcher status at AUT University.

David is the founder and chair of the international Critical Physiotherapy Network, and works on the development of future healthcare practice with programmes around the world.  He is a regular blogger and has a vibrant social media profile.  He has held a variety of leadership roles within higher education and is currently Associate Head of School (North) in the School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies at AUT University.

Teaching Areas:

  • Critical approaches to qualitative research
  • Postmodern and poststructural philosophies, theories and approaches
  • Critical history
  • Educational theory and philosophy
  • Professional and rehabilitation reform

Research Areas:

  • History of physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Postmodern theory
  • Critical pedagogy
  • Philosophy of embodiment and movement
  • Medical sociology and humanities
  • Rehabilitation reform
  • Social justice
  • Michel Foucault


A link to these papers can be found here
  • Nicholls, D.A. (August 2017).  The End of Physiotherapy.  Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Gibson, B.E., Nicholls, D.A., Synne Groven, K. & Setchell, J. (eds) (Forthcoming). Critical Studies in Physiotherapy.  Cappelen Damm: Oslo.
  • Nicholls, D.A. (Forthcoming).  New materialism.  In, B.E. Gibson, D.A. Nicholls, K, Synne Groven & J. Setchell, Critical Studies in Physiotherapy.  Cappelen Damm: Oslo.
  • Nicholls, D.A. (Forthcoming).  Le rôle de la neurasthénie dans l’émergence de la physiothérapie au 19ème siècle/The role of neurasthenia in the emergence of physiotherapy in the 19th century.  In Jacques Monet & Grégory Quin, Regards croisés sur l’histoire de la kinésithérapie, Publication pour les 70 ans du diplôme d’Etat de Masso-Kinésithérapie.
  • Setchell, J., Nicholls, D. A., & Gibson, B. E. (2017). Objecting: Multiplicity and the practice of physiotherapy. Health (London, England : 1997), 1363459316688519. doi:10.1177/1363459316688519
  • Nicholls, D.A., Harwood, G. & Bell, R. (2016).  Physical therapies in 19th century Aotearoa/New Zealand: Part 1 – Māori physical therapies.  New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 44(2), 75-83. doi: 10.15619/NZJP/44.2.02.
  • Nicholls, D.A. & Harwood, G. (November 2016).  Physical therapies in 19th century Aotearoa/New Zealand: Part 2 – Settler physical therapies.  New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 44(3), 124-132. doi: 10.15619/NZJP/44.3.02
  • Nicholls, D.A. & Harwood, G. (In press, due May 2017).  Physical therapies in 19th century Aotearoa/New Zealand: Part 3 – Rotorua Spa and discussion.  New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy.
  • Macdonald, H. & Nicholls, D.A. (In press).  Teaching physiotherapy students to ‘be content with a body that refuses to hold still.’  Physiotherapy Theory and Practice.
  • Nicholls, D.A., Atkinson, K., Bjorbækmo, W., Gibson, B.E., Latchem, J., Olesen, J., Ralls, J. & Setchell, J. (2016).  Connectivity: An emerging concept for physiotherapy practice. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. , 32(3), 159-70. doi:10.3109/09593985.2015.1137665
  • Nicholls, D.A. (2016). Parrhēsia, artisans and the possibilities for deliberate practice, In F. Trede & C. McEwan (eds).  Educating the deliberate professional.  Forthcoming.  New York, Springer.
  • Fadyl, J., Nicholls, D.A. & McPherson, K. (2015).  Re/creating entrepreneurs of the self:  Discourses of worker/employee ‘value’ and current vocational rehabilitation practices.  Sociology of Health and Illness.  DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.12212
  • Nicholls, D.A., Gibson, B.E. & Fadyl, J.K. (2015).  Rethinking Movement: Postmodern reflections on a dominant rehabilitation discourse.  In K. McPherson, B.E. Gibson & A.  Leplège (eds). Rethinking Rehabilitation Theory (pp. 97-116).  London, Taylor & Francis.  ISBN 978-1-4822-4920-0.
  • Patton, N. & Nicholls, D.A. (2014).  Access, agency and abilities.  In J. Higgs, A. Croker, D. Tasker, J. Hummell & N. Patton (eds). Health Practice Relationships (pp. 93-100).  Rotterdam, Sense.  ISBN 9789462097865.
  • Nicholls, D.A. (2014). Evidence based practice and practice based evidence. In V. Wright-St Clare, D. Reid, S. Shaw & J. Ramsbotham. Evidence-Based Health Practice. South Melbourne, Oxford University Press.  ISBN: 9780195585230.
  • Deed, B. & Nicholls, D.A. (2013). Approaches to healthcare provision. In Health and Environment in Aotearoa (2nd edition). (pp. 207-223) Sydney, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-558521-6.
  • Nicholls, D.A. (2013).  Experiences of health and wellbeing. In S. Shaw, L. White & B. Deed (eds), Health, Wellbeing and Environment in Aotearoa (2nd edition) (pp. 138-146). Sydney, Oxford University Press.  ISBN 978-0-19-558521-6
  • Fadyl, J. & Nicholls, D.A. (2013). Foucault, the Subject, and the Research Interview: A Critique of Methods. Nursing Inquiry, 20(1), 23-9. doi: 10.1111/nin.12011.
  • Fadyl, J., Nicholls, D.A. & McPherson, K. (2013). Interrogating discourse: The application of Foucault’s methodological discussion to specific inquiry. Health (ePub).  doi:10.1177/1363459312464073.
  • Nicholls, D.A. (2012). Postmodernism and physiotherapy research.  Physical Therapy Reviews, 16(6), 360-8.
  • Nicholls, D.A. (2012). Touch. In, Communication across the lifespan. S. Shaw, B. Deed and T. Weblemoe. South Melbourne, Oxford University Press: 187-196. ISBN: 9780195585148
  • Nicholls, D.A. & Gibson, B.E. (2012). Editorial. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 28(6), 418-419.
  • Nicholls, D.A. & Holmes, D. (2012). Discipline, desire, and transgression in physiotherapy practice. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 28(6), 454-465.Nicholls, D.A. (2012). Foucault and Physiotherapy. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 28(6), 447-453.