Consensus is growing, in many areas of the humanities and social sciences, that aspects of the material world we live in have causal efficacy on our minds – the major dynamic being the plasticity of the brain linked to the affordances of our bodily engagements with things. The implications of that on how we approach and understand important mental health issues have not been adequately addressed. This paper proposes a material engagement approach to the study of the processes by which different forms of materiality achieve their effects. Focusing on the example of dementia, I propose that a collaboration between archaeology, anthropology, philosophy and psychiatry could help us to fill this gap in our knowledge, allowing us to understand the exact effects of everyday objects, personal possessions and forms of material engagement on people with dementia.
Declaration of interest