Urban Brain Project: Workshop on ‘The Stress of the Urban’, Sept 15-16th

We are delighted to introduce our first workshop on Mental Life in the Metropolis – ‘The Stress of the Urban.’ This workshop is part of a project funded by the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council (UK). While this workshop is for invited participants only, we will report on findings and outcomes as widely as we can (both here, and on the project website). The aim is to explore the question of urban mental health by revitalizing the conceptual and methodological links between urban sociology, psychiatry, epidemiology, geography and neuroscience – links that were once strong, but that have fallen off in recent decades.  Our goal for the overall project is two-fold: (1) to bring different forms of expertise together, and create space for a more ‘transdisciplinary’ understanding of the relationship between social life, mental health, and the brain in the city; (2) to use this platform to pose more general questions about the collaborative and intellectual relationships between the social and biomedical sciences.

At the heart of the project are two workshops, in which invited participants from epidemiology, sociology, geography, the psychiatric and brain sciences, and related fields, come together to re-imagine and re-activate an older shared interest in urban mental health – though a focus on contemporary empirical research and analysis. Our hope is that the same cohort of invitees will, first, begin to re-establish lines of inquiry at Workshop 1, and, second, concretize these relationships in Workshop 2 – potentially building capacity to put together, for example, a shared publication, a network, even a grant proposal.

Workshop 1 takes place on September 15th and 16th 2014, at the Museum of London. Because we are such a heterogeneous group, and we want this to be an experimental event, we are asking participants to *not* give a typical talk at this workshop. Instead we are asking everyone to address one question only: Is stress a useful concept in thinking about the relationship between urban experience, mental health and the brain?

We’re also asking participants to centre their contribution around five shared readings. These are: Alison Abbot’s ‘Stress and the City: Urban Decay‘; Stephani Hatch and her colleagues’ ‘Importance of Thinking Locally for Mental Health: Data from Cross-Sectional Surveys Representing South East London and England; Suzi Hall’s ‘Narrating the City: Spaces of Urban Change in South London’; Heike Tost and Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg’s ‘Puzzling over Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia, Social Environment and the Brain’; and Ash Amin’s ‘The Good City.’

Of course, this really is meant to be an experimental space, and we’re not hugely prescriptive about this. If participants are willing to speculate quite freely, using only the materials in the pack, that’s great; if they want to draw more heavily on their own empirical or conceptual work, that’s fine too; if they decide to deliver a polemic, a proposal, or a performance – we’re (mostly) okay with all of that. In any event, our goal is to create the space for a shared dialogue, and one in which everyone can participate, about how we might understand, think about, and do research on, the complex of relationships between stress, city life, mental health, and the brain. Contributions of any form that advances (or questions!) that goal are what we’re looking for.

Alphabetical list of participants:

Mazda Adli – Senior Psychiatrist and Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group, Department of  Psychiatry, Charité, Berlin, German

Ash Amin – 1931 Chair in Geography, University of Cambridge, UK

Laura Helena Andrade – Co-ordinator, Section of Psychiatric Epidemiology, Institute of Psychiatry, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Michael Bloomfield [TBC] – Clinical Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Science, Imperial College, London, UK

George Davey Smith – Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Bristol, UK

Des Fitzgerald – Postdoctoral Researcher, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life,’ Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London, UK

Sandro Galea – Anna Cheskis Gelman and Murray Charles Gelman Professor of Epidemiology, and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, USA

Nicholas de Genova – Reader in Geography, Department of Geography, King’s College London, UK

Giovanni de Grandis – Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Media, Copenhagen University, Denmark

Monica Greco – Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmith’s College, London, UK

Suzanne Hall – Assistant Professor of Sociology, and Research Fellow at LSE Cities, London School of Economics, UK

Clare Herrick – Senior Lecturer in Geography, Department of Geography, King’s College London, UK

James Kirkbride – Senior Research Fellow, Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London, UK

Kwame McKenzie – Medical Director for Underserved Populations at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, and Professor in the  Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Canada

Craig Morgan – Senior Lecturer, Department of Health Services and Population Research, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK

Tom Osborne – Professor of Social and Cultural Theory, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol, UK

Edmund Ramsden – Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, School of History, Queen Mary, University of London, UK

Andreas Roepstorff – Professor with Special Responsibilities, Department of Culture and Society – Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark

Nikolas Rose – Professor of Sociology and Head of the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London, UK

Ilina Singh – Professor of Science Ethics and Society, Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London, UK

John Urry – Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University

For any inquiries about this workshop please contact Dr Des Fitzgerald.

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