Abeba Birhane is researching cognitive science at University College Dublin. She tweets and blogs about embodied cognition and the enactive approach to cognitive science, which is how I came across her work, when Marco shared a link to her post on Aeon. Abeba’s interest in a more relational understanding of personhood and dialogical approaches informed by the likes of Bakhtin, could bring a useful perspective to understanding the enabling conditions for community-led Opencare. While her work is not specific to the field of care, there are clear connections between the field of her research and how we think about a person and the challenges around health that OpenCare is wrestling with. The extent to which our Cartesian mindset goes unquestioned can be seen in the way which our health and social care systems have developed and our responses to solving the big challenges in public health that have faced society.
Abeba interests lie in the problematic conceptions of selfhood that arise from the influence of Descartes on psychology, the modern mind and ways of understanding our place in the world. She draws on Ubuntu and African philosophy for richer conceptions of the self and on the work of Bakhtin. Bakhtin’s study of philosophy led him to develop the concept of dialogism - a concept that went on to influence fields beyond language and communication. European social psychologists have applied Bakhtin’s work to the study of human social experience, preferring it as a more dynamic alternative to Cartesian dualism. Abeba’s research interests lie in the emerging fields of embodied and enactive cognition, which are similarly finding greater potential in dialogic models of the self. She is researching the ways in which our personhood is "always on the move, is relational and communal”. Sharing these insights may contribute to a sense of what a relational health and social care system might look like. Where patients are no longer treated as self-contained units in need of some form or intervention within conduit models of service delivery and greater health is generated through greater interconnection with others, with community and society.
I’m hoping Abeba will post some thoughts and that conversations will develop that will provide insights as to the assumptions our current care systems are founded on - conversations that may continue as part of the open sessions at the Open Village in October. What happens when we explore and shift our assumptions, when we work consciously with these, beyond designing care interventions and health apps confined by the boundaries those assumptions create?