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Nervous system, Image courtesy of imgarcade.com.

Nervous system, Image courtesy of imgarcade.com.

The Whole Earth Catalogue, 1968

The Whole Earth Catalogue, 1968

The Whole Earth Catalogue, 1968

The Whole Earth Catalogue, 1968

Events - Talks

Bad Atmospheres and Toxic Positivity

Facilitated by Andy Goffey and Colin Wright

14 Sep 2015

 
 
The summer school will begin its exploration of ecologies with a discussion of work that challenges the current focus in mental health on the individual’s responsibility for their own happiness and ‘wellbeing’, and on the institutional environments – the hospital but also the home, the therapy room but also the office – that supposedly facilitate such individualised ‘flourishing’.
 
Although this focus is often couched in broadly ‘ecological’ terms, our first day will stress the ways in which the neoliberal discourse of ‘wellbeing indexes’ and ‘psychological environments’ falls far short of Guattari’s concept of “mental ecologies” and the political practice associated with it. The latter takes seriously the idea that we are not individual psychological ‘units’ shut off from our environments, but fundamentally open to, and in active interaction with, the ideas, affects and sensory atmospheres that surround us. Moreover, Guattari’s thinking evolves in constant connection with radical experiments in institutional forms able to provide lessons for sheltering and fostering modes of subjectivity that can resist the ‘toxic positivity’ of health understood as productivity.
 
By considering carefully some of the ways in which it might make sense to talk about “mental ecologies,” to talk about ideas, feelings, or affects as if they were rare and fragile - or for that matter, proliferating and harmful - species, we want to explore the practical implications, for everyday life, of how we understand experience, of how we analyse the worlds we live in, and of how we conceptualise what it is to be human once we acknowledge our constitutive entanglement in broader complex ecologies. 
 
This session will offer a very brief introduction to the ecological theme of the summer school as a whole and will provide a preparatory discussion for the first evening session, which will focus on alternative ways of mapping the rich field of human experience that lies far beyond what is measured and counted by governmental ‘wellbeing indexes’.
 
 
Joe Gerlach and Thomas Jellis will lead a public workshop with vernacular cartography related to mental ecologies.
 
Felix Guattari’s work asks us to think ecologically. To think ecologically is to attend to the ways in which the mental can never be separate from social or natural ecologies. More specifically, it can help to refigure not only what we consider to be ‘mental’ but also how this is experienced, or how new ecologies of existence can be catalysed. In this session, we want to be adventurous and mundane, hitchhiking, and explore through performance the kinds of events, spaces, and ethics that can emerge. This is a style of hitchhiking that need not involve cars or roads, but rather encounters and lines of flight; helped along by another of Guattari’s ‘therapeutic hobbies’ - cartography – the practice of map making. More prosaically, we might wonder how to trace or even map these new becomings. This is our collective task.
 
Colin Wright helps to run the Centre for Critical Theory and is also Course Convenor of the MA in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies in the Department of Culture, Film and Media at The University of Nottingham. His general research interests include French Critical Theory, Lacanian Psychoanalysis, and Political and Postcolonial Theory. He is a Lacanian analyst working in private practice as well as in the field of addiction, and serves as the Editorial Secretary on the journal The Lacanian Review: Hurly Burly. His current book project develops a Lacanian critique of the Happiness Industry.
 
Andrew Goffey runs the Centre for Critical Theory at The University of Nottingham. He is the co-author with Matthew Fuller, of Evil Media, the co-editor, with Éric Alliez, of The Guattari Effect and with Roland Faber, of The Allure of Things. He is the translator of Isabelle Stengers and Philippe Pignarre's Capitalist Sorcery, Félix Guattari's Schizoanalytic Cartographies and Lines of Flight. For Another World of Possibilities. He is currently working on books on Guattari and on the micropolitics of software. 
 
Joe Gerlach is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University, and is also a Research Fellow and Tutor at Keble College. Joe's research interests lie in cultural, political and social geography, with specific projects focussed on critical cartography and, elsewhere, a continued concern for how the works of Felix Guattari and Baruch Spinoza play into contemporary geographical thought and technique. Joe's current research entitled, 'Excavating the political: mining and micropolitics in Ecuador' is a geographical investigation of a hesitant political experiment currently underway in Ecuador. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, his research examines the way in which nature and non-humans have been incorporated into Ecuador's recent constitutional framework so as to accentuate the state's so-called 'post-neoliberal' credentials. Focusing specifically on the ecological tensions sparked by the current expansion of the country's gold mining industry, the research will assess how, and the extent to which, non-humans can participate as meaningful political actors, and not just as token avatars for environmental concern. The research draws on a number of eclectic intellectual nodes, notably from non-representational theory and science and technology studies.
 
Thomas Jellis is a Departmental Lecturer at the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University. His current research examines the notion of experiment and how, increasingly, multiple practices are being described as experimental. More specifically, Thomas attempts to articulate both a geography of certain kinds of ways of thinking the experiment, and explore how geography is trying to re-imagine itself as experimental. This chimes with his interest in the history and philosophy of the discipline, as well as his particular concern for non-representational styles of thinking and working. He has spent time at the Montreal-based Hexagram research-creation institute working with the Topological Media Lab and SenseLab, was a guest at the Institut für Raumexperimente in Berlin for a semester, was a resident geographer at the transdisciplinary laboratory FoAM in Brussels and is an associate of The Office of Experiments. He is a member of the editorial committee for the journal, Inflexions, and a participant in the more-than-disciplinary Diagrammatic Practices group and the committee for the History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group.
 
To book click the links below, 
 
4-6:30pm SeminarThe Studio
Workshop led by Andy Goffey and Colin Wright
 
7pm  Lecture and performanceCafe.Bar 
Three Ecologies Cartography Event

 

 

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