Locating the mind: social and material agencies in the matter of the mind
Veronica Strang (Durham University)
Robert Barton (Durham University)
Cognition and evolution
Examination Schools Room 10
Start time:
20 September, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel seeks to reconcile social and material perspectives on the mind and their diverse spatial and temporal scales. Via a question as to where the mind is located, it will explore different disciplinary and cultural understandings about the internal and external agencies that compose the mind.

Long abstract:

By exploring the ways in which diverse cultures and academic disciplines conceptualise and locate the mind, this panel seeks to develop a pan-anthropological perspective that reconciles its social and material dimensions. Concepts of mind encompass vastly differing temporal and spatial scales, from a focus on fleeting micro-neurological events to broader understandings about evolutionary development, and from assumptions that the mind is located in individual phenomenological experience to more abstract visions of shared consciousness and extended minds. Spatially distributed views, for example ideas about sentient and/or agentive landscapes, highlight a reality that the 'matter' of the mind is both internal and external. This draws attention to the multiple forms of social and material agency that direct the mind, and the need for disciplines to collaborate in developing a comprehensive and coherent view of these. Addressing a shared question about where the mind is located will highlight similarities and points of confluence between different understandings. Through this traversal of disciplinary and cultural perspectives, the panel hopes to enable the co-creation of new ideas about human thought and imagination. The panel seeks participants from anthropological sub-disciplines and other relevant areas, such as the cognitive and neurological sciences. Observing that a commitment to disciplinary equality is foundational to successful interdisciplinarity, it will replace the conventional discussant model with a round-table conversation. Each participant will be asked to engage directly with contributions from the 'other' side of the social-material divide, and to reflect on their own research in the light of these.