Affect, Empathy, the Body

The inaugural University of Birmingham Mental Health Humanities symposium

A drawing of hands with tangled coloured thread

Organised by Professor Lisa Downing, this online symposium explored some of the ways in which key concepts of affect, empathy, and the body shape the work being carried out by, between, and on the borders of humanities and mental health research.

From critical accounts of the moral judgments ascribed to empathy, to reflections on the key role empathy plays in those types of filmmaking and writing that elicit embodied affective responses, the event showcased a diversity of perspectives, disciplines, and investments. 

You can access a number of the pre-recorded talks and films from the symposium below.

The following talks introduced aspects of our current work of relevance to the theme followed by Q&As/ discussion

Our “Empathy Critical" panel consisted of the following three presentations: 

 Our colleagues from CREAM (a group at UoB exploring Creativity, Aesthetics, Metaphor, Story and Empathy) also provided filmed content on some of their work, as detailed below.

“Empathy with CREAM*” (pre-recorded) with Rob Stone, Ruth Gilligan, Jeannette Littlemore and Jimmy Hay, featuring Rob's six-minute video essay on empathetic filmmaking aesthetics and discussion. This film is available to view  through Vimeo

"Empathy in/as Creative Practice: The Butchers” - Jimmy Hay interviews Ruth Gilligan about her Ondaatje Prize-winning novelThe Butchers , and issues of empathy and creativity. The  interview is available to watch through Vimeo in HD. You can also Read a sample of The Butchers  by clicking “Look Inside” on the image of the book cover. The Butchers by Ruth Gilligan is available to purchase here.

The 'Some Stories' documentary discussed in the Empathy with CREAM video is available to view here, and description below.

Some Stories require courage, a deep breath and a leap. This 89 minute documentary is about the work of the Narrative 4 organisation and, specifically, the three days in November 2018 when 15 English teenagers from Birmingham met 15 Irish teenagers in Limerick for a 'story exchange workshop' designed to create empathy. Emotional, intense and powerful, this workshop was run by Ruth Gilligan and James Lawlor. SOME STORIES was directed and edited by Rob Stone, and filmed by Jimmy Hay and Will McKeown. It features songs by Kathleen Turner and music by Will McKeown.

 The films of Jimmy Hay referenced can also be accessed on Amazon Prime:

'World Cinema between the Rock of the Unknowable and the Hard Place of the As Yet Unknown' is an article by Rob Stone and Luis Freijo in Transnational Screens on empathy in the formation of an ethical approach to the study of World Cinema: https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxyd.bham.ac.uk/doi/full/10.1080/25785273.2021.1873572?src=