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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie


Wann 06.06.2017 von 18:00 bis 20:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC200) iCal
Wo Raum 311
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Designing and doing co-laboration on the role of urban living in psychosis


Ola Söderström
Institut de Géographie, Université de Neuchâtel


In this meeting of the Kolloquium on ‘modes of relating’ at the Department of European Ethnology I will talk about an on-going research on the relations between urban living and psychosis. As the Kolloquium is interested in methodologies and therefore in the ‘how’ questions, I will explain how the project came about, how it was designed, how we go about doing it, what main results it produces and how we plan future research on the same topic. To narrate this research process I will use the felicitous term co-laboration which describes ‘joint epistemic work’ (Niewöhner 2015) between different disciplines and the concrete common labour that goes into crafting means of producing knowledge on a common matter of interest. This matter of interest is the intriguing and robust finding through time that living in dense urban areas is, beyond aspects of risk selection in cities, a factor in the onset of schizophrenia. Since the first systematic investigation in Chicago in the 1930’s which reached this conclusion (Faris and Dunham 1939), an important body of work in psychiatry has confirmed this finding, showing inter alia that the size of cities, their density, indicators of deprivation, living in cities during childhood and adolescence are correlated to higher prevalence of schizophrenia (for a summary: Vassos et al 2012).

The starting point of our co-laboration - which involves psychiatrists, ethnomethodologists and human geographers - is the conviction that a better understanding of this phenomenon requires a move beyond epidemiology, as its methodology cannot account for how heterogeneous aspects of urban living (from sensory-affective experience to social interaction and urban form) interact in the ordinary urban life of individuals (Söderström et al 2016). This shared conviction has been a pre-requisite for designing and using together a common research ‘laboratory’. It consists in mixed methods where video-recorded go-alongs and video-elicitation sessions work as hypothesis-generating devices and a survey as a hypothesis-testing one. During my talk, I will explain and show how this laboratory works, what type of knowledge it has generated as yet and how it leads us to plan new forms of co-laboration that we envisage as part of a larger on-going discussion on possible new alliances between the social and the life sciences (Rose 2013).



Faris, R.E., Dunham, H.W., 1939. Mental disorders in urban areas: An ecological study of schizophrenia and other psychoses. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Niewöhner, J. (2015). Epigenetics: localizing biology through co-laboration. New Genetics and Society, 34(2), 219-242

Rose, N. 2013. The human sciences in a biological age. Theory, Culture & Society 30, no 1: 3-34.

Söderström, O., Empson, L. A., Codeluppi, Z., Söderström, D., Baumann, P. S., & Conus, P. (2016). Unpacking ‘the City’: an experience-based approach to the role of urban living in psychosis. Health & Place, 42, 104-110

Vassos, E., Pedersen, C.B., Murray, R.M., Collier, D.A., Lewis, C.M., 2012. Meta-Analysis of the Association of Urbanicity With Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin 38, 1118-1123