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Social justice, inequalities, the arts and public health: weapons of mass happiness?

Parkinson, Clive (2018) Social justice, inequalities, the arts and public health: weapons of mass happiness? Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis draws together nine publications spanning the period between 2007 and 2018. They have been selected to reflect a specific aspect of my research trajectory, its contribution to the field of arts and health, and its future direction, demonstrating its application to international policy and practice, whilst placing it within a space that is critical of its own community of interest. The research is informed by the cultural and political landscape of ‘austerity’ in the UK. It questions the dominance of neoliberal policies and culture and how these influence the arts and health field, and positions itself outside the bio-medical discourse. Whilst questioning notions of ‘gold standards’ in research and evaluation, the argument made, is for an arts-led field in the pursuit of social justice and health equity, rather than one understood through the language of pathology and sickness. Through an artist led perspective, this thesis amplifies and builds on the thinking of those concerned with inequalities, (Marmot, 2010; Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009/2011) drawing on the work of contemporary theorists and academics across allied disciplines, taking into account the current policy context for arts and health in the UK. It suggests that whilst there is evidence (Gordon-Nesbitt, 2015) that the arts might mitigate against some of the factors that influence health and wellbeing, by being framed and understood in predominantly bio-medical ways, the arts are at risk of becoming a reductivist cost-effective tool, rather than a liberating force for social change.

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