13 de enero de 2016

Minds and Brains in Everyday Life. Embedding and Negotiating Scientific Concepts in Popular Discourses

Type: Call for Papers
Date: March 6, 2016
Location: United Kingdom
Subject Fields: British History / Studies, Health and Health Care, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Psychology, Childhood and Education

Minds and Brains in Everyday Life: 
Embedding and Negotiating Scientific Concepts in Popular Discourses
Symposium, to be held on 8 and 9 June 2016. The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Hope Park Square. Edinburgh. EH8 9NW

The aim of this 2-day symposium is to enable an interdisciplinary discussion of how the mind and brain have, historically and in contemporary society, figured in everyday understandings of ourselves. The symposium will address questions such as: How are the mind and brain conceptualized, imagined and quantified in everyday life? How do (neuro)psychological discourses influence the understanding of the mind and brain outside of expert circles? How do these inform concepts of the self, social practices and social relationships in fields such as education, parenting, mental health and law? How do ideas of the mind and brain figure in popular media discourses and with what consequences? Finally, how can we use such analyses to reflect on historical and contemporary configurations of humanity?
There are open slots for presentations by researchers from a wide range of disciplines including, but not limited to, sociology, neuroscience, history of science and knowledge, science and technology studies, philosophy, arts and literature, and psychology. We welcome proposals for 20–30 minute presentations.
Please send abstracts of up to 500 words as Word attachments by March 6th, 2016. Please include your full name, a short CV, affiliation, email address, phone number, and the title of your presentation. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by March 18th, 2016.
Abstracts should be sent to the organisers:
Susanne Schregel: s.schregel(a)uni-koeln.de

Detailed Outline
Throughout history, the mind, the brain, and the qualities that have been ascribed to them, have fascinated scientists and the public alike. While concepts of the mind and the brain are partly shaped by our everyday experience, scientific debates have contributed much to our understanding of cognitive and mental capacities. The rise of modern psychology and psychological testing since the late 19th century for instance promoted the idea that cognitive capacities could be possessed to different and quantifiable degrees. The invention of the IQ in particular contributed to the idea that intelligence could be measured and quantified within a wider public. Furthermore, neuroscientific discourses are being increasingly adopted in public life, and taken to provide objective information about human development and capabilities. This has already had tangible consequences for approaches to parenting, education, mental health, and law, among others.
Not surprisingly, the configuration of everyday understandings and everyday life (or, in a Foucauldian sense, of subjectivities) through psychological and neuroscientific concepts has been a prominent analytical and empirical issue across social history, the history of knowledge and science as well as social studies of science, albeit in different ways. The aim of this symposium is to connect these diverse fields of study and enable joint discussions of how the mind and brain have, historically and in the contemporary era, figured in everyday understandings of ourselves. We ask questions such as: How are the mind and brain conceptualized, imagined and quantified in everyday life? How do (neuro)psychological discourses influence the understanding of the mind and brain outside of expert circles? How do they inform concepts of the self, social practices and social relationships, in fields such as education, parenting, mental health and law? How do ideas of the mind and brain figure in popular media discourses and with what consequences? Finally, how can we use such analyses to reflect on historical and contemporary configurations of humanity?
To enable a joint discussion, we particularly suggest five foci of attention:
1. Forums: A starting point of discussions about the mind and brain in everyday life is the analysis of the forums in which such debates evolve. This does not just imply the question of where popular discourses around mind and brain can be found; we also need to understand how knowledge about mental and cognitive capacities and characteristics circulates between scientific and everyday understandings, and the transformations of knowledge these travels imply. Since the 20th century in particular, the relation between science/psychology and the public has been highly mediated. For instance, some of the major controversies around intelligence testing took place in the (popular) media. In a similar vein, everyday interpretations and practices around the mind and the brain today are guided by popular publications and by policy discourses. We therefore invite papers that scrutinise the forums of public engagement with science, including the ways in which popular discourses may influence scientific conceptualizations of mind and brain. Concrete examples of such forums could be: newspapers, popular books, self-help literature, letters to the editor, radio, talk shows, or parenting programmes and policy documents drawing on (recent) psychological and neuroscientific research.
2. Modes of speaking/modes of authorisation: A further question relates to what kinds of publics are (co-)constituted within such forums, how these publics engage with scientific discourses and with what consequences, and in particular, what modes of speaking they employ when discussing the mind and the brain. Modes of speaking could vary from being objective through to being ironic, relating to modes of authorisation or empowerment. In our view, addressing questions like these may help to understand the relevance of discourses about mind and brain beyond a simplistic model of top-down power, and beyond putting citizens in the role of either ‘accepting’ or ‘rejecting’ scientific discourses.
3. Imaginaries of the mind and the brain: With our third focus, we wish to draw attention to imaginaries of the mind and the brain. How can we speak about and make sense of the mind and the brain? What images are available for scientific and non-expert discourses alike? Do citizens draw on a dualistic understanding of the mind and the brain: for example, are they mostly materialistic in their views, or do they adopt yet another position? New brain imaging techniques and applications such as neurofeedback (where people learn to influence their brain waves in order to control mood or reach other goals) may be used in creative and unexpected ways by people in order to conceptualise their brain, and current sociological research has started to analyse these conceptualisations in relation to different techniques. Psychological interpretations have also given rise to certain social ‘characters’ such as the ‘gifted child’ or the ‘underachiever’. Thus, discourses about mind and brain link to culturally rich and complex ways of constituting meaning, and we invite papers that explore such understandings, metaphors and imaginaries.
4. Marketing minds and brains: Commercial interests have capitalised on scientific and popular interest surrounding minds and brains, and, particularly, the drive to optimise these. In the 1960s, for instance, a bestselling book title encouraged its readers to ‘Know Your Own I.Q.’ (Eysenck 1962). Another publication in the 1970s called upon particularly worried – or especially ambitious – parents to test their children’s intelligence (Serebriakoff/Langer 1979). Not even pets were spared, as books like the ‘Definitive I.Q. Test for Cats and I.Q. Test for Cat Owners’ (Miller 1992) illustrate. Recently, so-called ‘brain training games’ have attracted a large market of older and younger people alike, in which the aim is for people to improve their ‘brain age’. Hence, the profitability of cognitive and brain discourses is an interesting, if controversial, phenomenon. It may lead to a range of questions concerning, for example, the relation between science and the market, products as a mediator for scientific concepts, and the way in which these discourses and products can strengthen ideas around self-improvement and remaining healthy.
5. The status of science, knowledge production, and everyday life: Finally, we invite papers that reflect on the status of (neuro)psychological sciences, knowledge production and everyday life. Currently, scholars such as Brian Wynne and Nikolas Rose have argued that science is simultaneously highly regarded and at times the subject of public scrutiny and scepticism. Accepting, but also critically engaging with this ambivalence, and looking at the ways in which scientific concepts are negotiated by a wider public is highly relevant in order to understand the complex relations between science, everyday life, and subjectivities. We therefore encourage applications that contribute to continuing debates on the political character of knowledge and the co-construction of human subjects in and through knowledge practices from an everyday perspective.
There are open slots for presentations by researchers from a wide range of disciplines including, but not limited to, sociology, neuroscience, the history of science and knowledge, science and technology studies, philosophy, arts and literature, and psychology. We welcome proposals for 20–30 minute presentations.
While our examples in this outline are mainly from the 20th century onwards, the symposium is not limited to this time period, and we welcome papers addressing previous periods, or even the future (e.g. by using science fiction). Similarly, our examples are mostly situated in Western Europe and the USA, but we would welcome papers discussing configurations of the mind and brain in other countries.
Please send abstracts of up to 500 words as Word attachments by March 6th, 2016. Please include your full name, a short CV, affiliation, phone number, and the title of your presentation. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by March 18th, 2016.
Abstracts should be sent to the organisers:
Susanne Schregel: s.schregel(a)uni-koeln.de

The Symposium will take place at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities Edinburgh. The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities was established in 1969 to promote interdisciplinary research in the humanities and social sciences at the University of Edinburgh. It provides an international, interdisciplinary and autonomous space for discussion and debate.
This Symposium is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh Susan Manning Workshops, in memory of IASH’s former Director, Susan Manning, and the EURIAS Fellowship program/Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Actions – COFUND Pro­gramme – FP7.
For more information, please see
Contact Info: 
Susanne Schregel
Contact Email: