Tuesday 10 April 2018

Project PERFECT Year 4 - Michael Larkin

Today's post is provided by Project PERFECT's Co-investigator Michael Larkin from Aston University. In the post he outlines his plans for the coming months of the project.

We’ve had a good start to this final block already, with Rachel Gunn and Magdalena Antrobus both successfully defending their theses at viva before Christmas, and subsequently being awarded their doctorates. I’ve really enjoyed working with Lisa Bortolotti and these two brilliant, creative and insightful researchers. It has been really exciting to see the interdisciplinary nature of their work take on such a distinctive character: I hope that we will see the the benefits of this in future work, post-PERFECT, too. 

In Magdalena’s work, the interdisciplinary quality has taken the form of a very rigorous engagement with existing psychological evidence about the nature and context of low mood. In Rachel’s thesis, it involved conducting interviews, and engaging with phenomenological data, about the experience of unusual beliefs.  One of the things that I’m most looking forward to for this year’s work is finishing the paper that Rachel and I have started, based on some this analysis.

I will also continue to work with Lisa this year on co-supervising Valeria Motta’s very timely work on loneliness and solitude. I am excited to see how Valeria’s work – which will also involve interviews and their analysis – will further develop our emerging template for a hybrid practice of philosophy and psychology. Valeria is attending our Phenomenology of Health and Relationships (PHaR) group at Aston too, and this is helping me to keep the spectrum of loneliness-connectedness in mind, as  a theme which links much of my work.

On that theme, I hope to conduct an interview with Niobe Way, for the project blog, in a few weeks’ time. Niobe’s work on boys’ friendships is brilliant and inspiring. On my mind’s-eye’s bookshelf, her book Deep Secrets sits next to Avril Taylor’s Women Drug-Users, and Stuart Hauser’s Out of the Woods, as an example of the way that the very best academic writing can be accessible and in-depth and insightful.

A number of other PERFECT-related activities are on the horizon. I’m writing a post for the project blog about the Power Threat Meaning Framework. I’m supervising a new PhD student at Aston (Lindsey Sharratt), for whom I’ll be working with a new collaborator there (Nathan Ridout). 

Although Lindsey’s project is not a formal part of PERFECT, her topic (memory and mood) and my interest in it, is a direct result of participating in the PERFECT workshop on memory in Oxford. In particular, the approach taken by John Sutton, which integrated narrative, relationship and memory, really set me up for some very productive conversations with Nathan and Lindsey. So it will be interesting to see how this ties in with the themes and activites of our last year.

Finally, I’ll be continuing to work on projects around relationships and mental health, and on co-design, and where relevant, to feed these in to our conversations about PERFECT. We’re having lots of ideas about the end-of-project event at the moment too, so I will helping with that as well.

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