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EGENIS seminar: "A Candyman in Letchworth: Making Human Environments Liveable", Prof Des Fitzgerald (University of Exeter)

Egenis seminar series

It is commonplace now to say that mental life is partly a product of the environment – to say that a person’s mental health is rooted in the external circumstances of their life, and not (only) in the internal workings of their body. There is however an emergent wrinkle in this form of thought, which is not new, but has nonetheless gained prominence in recent years: for both cultural and scientific practitioners, the environment, as it relates to mind, has come to signify not simply a generalisable set of social and cultural circumstances, but rather a person’s immediate physical environment; which is to say, the materials composing the building they are in, the arrangement of the urban scene they are passing through, or the set of small plants and shrubs with which they desperately populate their living and working spaces.

Event details

This paper is a kind of peripatetic exploration exploration around  some of the cultural and scientific objects binding this form of thought together, from the classic horror movie, Candyman, to the garden city movement of the early twentieth century, to experimental architectures based on biological and  biomorphic object, to the emergence of novel scientific fields such as spatial cognition and cognitive design. Across this disparate area, I will try to think about changes  when we understand pathological thought as the product of an intimate relationship between a person and their physical surrounds. I will show how, in particular, an emphasis on natural and green objects in a person’s physical environment has come to be seen as a primary mediator of good mental health; and I will argue that new circulations between scientific and cultural practices precisely focused on materiality, cognition, design, and nature, are moving to the centre of how we represent, treat and govern human psychology today. 

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