From Trading Zones to Buffer Zones: Art and Metaphor in the Communication of Psychiatric Genetics to Publics

  • Jamie Lewis
  • Julia M. Thomas


Psychiatric genetics has an awkward relationship with the public given its unshakeable connection to eugenics. Drawing from a five-year public engagement programme that emerged from an internationally renowned psychiatric genetics centre, we propose the concept of the buffer zone to consider how an exchange of viewpoints between groups of people—including psychiatric geneticists and lay publics—who are often uneasy in one another’s company can be facilitated through the use of art and metaphor. The artwork at the exhibitions provided the necessary socio-cultural context for scientific endeavours, whilst also enabled public groups to be part of, and remain in, the conversation. Crucial to stress is that this mitigation was not to protect the science; it was to protect the discussion.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jamie Lewis
    • 1
  • Julia M. Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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