Convivencia: a medieval idea with contemporary relevance

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Chris Wood


This paper was first inspired by medieval Moorish architecture and by the word convivencia; the literal translation of which is living together and mingling. The Spanish word conjures the possibilities for living well when ideas are shared and when there is tolerance. It is used to describe the cultural flowering that occurred in medieval Spain, when the ruling Muslim Caliphates promoted tolerance, and when Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived well alongside one another. This history seems to show how mental health might be sustained in cities.

The impact of urbanization, migration and poverty upon mental health services, are considered in the light of how art therapy has developed and what it might contribute, however modestly. The case is made for drawing creatively upon knowledge developed during successive periods of the profession’s history. The paper suggests that it could be wasteful of growing professional knowledge to espouse practice based on only one strand of what is a rich history. It concludes by expressing the hope for further integration, or convivencia, in the current period of art therapy development.

Key words: Art therapy, convivencia, mental health, migration, poverty, and therapeutic adaptation

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