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Accepted Paper:

Encountering as boundary object for urban mental health research  
Patrick Bieler (Technical University of Munich)

Paper short abstract:

Based on a generative problematization of psychiatric research and two ethnographic case studies on everyday life in Berlin (Germany), I focus on fleeting, ecological encounters and discuss methodological implications for inter- and transdisciplinary urban mental health research.

Paper long abstract:

Postgenomic shifts within epidemiological psychiatry constitute overlaps of interests between psychiatric and ethnographic research (Fitzgerald et al. 2016). This has motivated social scientists to develop ecological perspectives to grasp the relations of urban life and mental health (Bister et al. 2016; Kirmayer 2019; Manning et al. 2022). Such an ontologically grounded analytical perspective enables collaborative empirical research between the social sciences and psychiatry, because it is developed from and simultaneously goes beyond merely deconstructing psychiatry (Bieler/Niewöhner 2018; Winz/Söderström 2021).

Psychiatric research has established a causal link between urban living and severe mental health problems (Vassos et al. 2012). Current studies focus the ecological concentration of mental health risks in neighborhoods explaining how differences within a city emerge due to social injustices and how they are mediated by social processes, particularly social capital and social isolation (Manning 2019; Rose 2019).

Based on a generative problematization of these findings and two ethnographic case studies on everyday life in a district of Berlin (Germany), I will broaden the focus of current urban mental health research: Rather than focusing on strong social ties measured via personal networks of individuals, I will take into account fleeting, more-than-human encounters and how they constitute neighborhood atmospheres. I propose the processual notion of encountering as a boundary object to assemble heterogeneous actors – psychiatric and ethnographic researchers, political stakeholders, urban planners, mental health care clients and others (Griesemer/Star 1989; Rose/Fitzgerald 2022) – and I discuss which necessary methodological developments arise from this.

Panel P108
Biosocial approaches to health and environment
  Session 2