Politics of Psychic Life Speaker Series


The Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, and the Politics of Psychic Life Speaker Series will host:

Rasmus Birk, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication & Psychology, Aalborg University, Denmark.

He will present:

“This city is not doable anymore”: On psychological ecologies and ‘idioms of urban distress’ in Southeast London

Please register HERE


Rasmus Birk is Assistant Professor in Psychology at the Department of Communication & Psychology, Aalborg University, Denmark, and Affiliated Research Associate at King’s College London. His work explores topics such as the relationships between urban life and mental health, the rise of “digital phenotyping”, and the development of novel (neuro)ecosocial theories for understanding, conceptualizing and theorizing mental health.


In this presentation, I will take my point of departure in the many quantitative studies that have demonstrated empirical relationships between living in cities and the development of mental distress. Specifically, I will explore some of the ways experiences of distress become entangled with experiences of, and reflections on, urban life more broadly. Drawing on the well-known concept of ‘idioms of distress’, I will use qualitative empirical materials to illustrate how young people living in Southeast London use ‘idioms of urban distress’. These idioms of urban distress both reflect culturally available repertoires about contemporary, precarious urban life and they are simultaneously expressions of particular experiences of mental distress. I will argue that this suggests that, in a time of increasing focus on urban mental health, there is a need for conceptual and empirical engagement with how particular ‘psychological ecologies’ furnish us with ways of reflecting on and experiencing the world.

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