Q&A with Honours Fellow Mark Bosch

Mark Bosch from the Department of Gender and Culture talks to SEI about his honours research tackling planetary scale depression and anxiety in the age of the Anthropocene.

Photo by Jesse Gardner via Unsplash

What are you researching for Honours?

I’m researching ecodepression. I consider the nexus of planetary and mental health to be enormously significant because, in an age of widespread alienation, anxiety, and the wilful destruction of worlds, we must think depression in planet-wide, political terms, rather than in individualised, chemical terms. This notion is increasingly du jour, and as poor mental health is increasingly destigmatised, I hope we’ll not just continue to share our histories but turn to talking about what real healing looks like.

My thesis will aim to contribute to the healing discussion. I’ll be writing from an autoethnographic perspective, which means I’ll be recounting moments I’ve risen out of ecodepression in a personal essay style before extrapolating them to a broader cultural critique of how we experience hope, love, joy, and mourning in the Anthropocene. However I want to offer my personal accounts tentatively, rather than as ecotherapeutic testimony. Specific things work for specific people, and specifics matter: it’s not enough simply to say “the planet is depressed”. Some populations are worse off than others. Similarly, the planet is being hollowed out in some areas and not others; certain chemicals are seeping into some soils and not others, or flowing into some bodies of water and not others. At particular junctures, driven by particular ethics, we find particular solutions. The ethics on which I will gently theorise throughout my writing will revolve around questions of encounter, solidarity, exhaustion and, on a meta level, storytelling. I think these are suitable starting points for reckoning with the guilt, shame, paralysis, and misanthropy that make up what we might call ecodepression.

What are the key environmental issues your research aims to address?

I am interested in the direct, daily encounters we have with environmental issues. It is only in analysing the concreteness of these encounters that I can contribute anything meaningful to how we understand environmental issues. I am not a scientist in any sense of the word. That said, I see urban sprawl and overurbanisation, land and water pollution, agribusiness, and biodiversity loss as some of the key issues on which my experience of ecodepression hinges.

What led you to your research topic?

Based on what I’ve already said, it should come as no surprise that this research topic is deeply personal. But I’ve also chosen it because depression, with or without the prefix, is everywhere, in so many of our loved ones, in so many landscapes. And yet we are all, at once, alone, because ecodepression foreshortens our sense of connection to others and to place and time such that we cease to understand ourselves as kin and as ecological actors, and cease to envision different, better futures. So, through an open, tentative sharing of experiences which I hope will evoke the reader’s own, whether they’re about bushwalking or banner painting or blockading or beekeeping, I want my thesis to very simply help the reader feel less alone.

Apart from research, what are your passions & interests?

I play the violin, volunteer as Lead Critic for the online youth classical music magazine CutCommon, and engage in climate activism. Sometimes I’m very into film, sometimes I’m very into art, sometimes I’m not into much at all. I love strawberry milkshakes all the time however, along with — surprise surprise — cups of tea. If a small bug lands on me, I’ll probably end up playing with it for fifteen minutes.

What about SEI made you interested in an Honours Fellowship with us?

Though my working relationship with SEI is just beginning, I have a strong impression of it as the most alluring, interdisciplinary beast, building much needed bridges between the natural and social sciences and the humanities. The Institute supports such open conversations by coordinating a great schedule of accessible events and maintaining an online presence, both of which I’ve been following for the past year or so. This has had a big influence on my realisation that my ideal professional life is one that amalgamates art, academia, and activism. I think this Fellowship will allow me to glimpse what that might look like.

Mark Bosch majored in French and Gender Studies at the University of Sydney, and is an SEI Honours Fellow for 2019. He plays the violin and has since 2017 been a member of the Sydney University Symphony Orchestra. He also writes as Lead Critic for the online youth classical music magazine CutCommon, and participates in environmental justice activism. Mark lives on Darug land in southwest Sydney.