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Towards Neuroecosociality: Mental Health in Adversity

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Original languageEnglish
Article number0263276420981614
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number0
Early online date28 Jan 2021
Accepted/In press9 Nov 2020
E-pub ahead of print28 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: We have drawn on discussions with our colleagues collaborating in our work at the Urban Brain Lab, notably Des Fitzgerald and Ash Amin, and our researchers for our work in Shanghai, Jessie (Jie) Li and Lisa Richaud, and our colleague Laura Andrade in São Paulo. Nikolas Rose acknowledges funding from The European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme for the Human Brain Project under Grant Agreement No. 720270 and ESRC Award ES/L003074/1: ‘A New Sociology for a New Century: Transforming the Relations between Sociology and Neuroscience, through a Study of Mental Life’. Nikolas Rose and Nick Manning acknowledge funding from ESRC-NSFC Award ES/N010892/1: ‘Urban Transformations in China’; and an Award for ‘Mental Health, Migration and the Mega City (Sao Paulo) – M3SP’ from King’s-FAPESP APR Scheme. Rasmus Birk acknowledges funding for an international postdoctoral fellowship from the Independent Research Fund Denmark, grant number 8023-00013B. Nikolas Rose thanks Des Fitzgerald for permission to draw on arguments developed in more detail in their joint book on The Urban Brain. We would also like to express our thanks to the Editors and referees for Theory, Culture & Society for very helpful suggestions, many of which we have incorporated and which have significantly improved the paper. Of course, we take responsibility for all errors of fact and interpretation. This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Centre for Society and Mental Health at King’s College London [ES/S012567/1]. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the ESRC or King’s College London. Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2021. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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Social theory has much to gain from taking up the challenges of conceptualising ‘mental health’. Such an approach to the stunting of human mental life in conditions of adversity requires us to open up the black box of ‘environment, and to develop a vitalist biosocial science, informed by and in conversation with the life sciences and the neurosciences. In this paper we draw on both classical and contemporary social theory to begin this task. We explore human inhabitation - how humans inhabit their ‘ecological niches’ - and examine a number of conceptual developments that ‘deconstruct’ the binary distinction between organism and environment. We argue that we must understand the neurological, ecological and social pathways and mechanisms that shape human (mental) life if we are to address the central concerns of our discipline with inequity and injustice as these are inscribed into the bodies and souls of human beings.

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