Birmingham scholars take on unrealistic optimism, a love diary in Cairo and regulating dementia care at Hay

Why do victims of dementia need a new approach to how their care is regulated? Can unrealistic optimism improve our well-being? And what does a love diary written by a young man in the 1940’s tell us about 1940’sCairo’

Scholars from the University of Birmingham’s College of Arts and Law take to the stage at this year’s 30th anniversary of the Hay Festival, leading talks and debates showcasing their research.

Professor Rosie Harding of Birmingham Law school, exposes the everyday problems generated by the uneven implementation of the legal framework and the chronic underfunding of dementia social care. She examines the everyday relationships between family, carers and those for whom they care.

Professor of Philosophy, Lisa Bortolotti, takes to the stage to explore forms of ‘unrealistic optimism’, which psychologists say can lead to mild distortions of reality, but has also been shown to lead to good mental health, motivation and productivity.

Professor Lisa Bortolotti, from the Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham said:

‘I am very excited about speaking at the Hay Festival for the first time. I will be exploring the effects of an optimistic way of thinking on wellbeing and success. In some contexts, a bias towards optimism makes us happier and more motivated to achieve our goals; in other context, it causes disappointment and encourages recklessness and risk taking.

‘I will argue that optimistic beliefs are good for our relationships and our health, even when they are not backed up by evidence, if they make us more resilient and resourceful agents.’

Middle East Historian, Dr Lucie Ryzova, will take her audience on a journey into 20thCentury Cairo through the eyes of a love stricken young man, after his anonymous diary written in the 1940’s, was discovered in a flea market. His story tells of middle class modernity in her historical ethnography.

How does an artist build a museum in a book? Art historian Professor Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll examines her colonial past through the history and personal histories of her ancestors from the Habsburg and Aztec empires. Her book delves deep into the pockets of belonging where ancestors have lived.

Professor Jeannette Littlemore discusses her research examining how non-literal expression is employed and understood when people from very different backgrounds come together. Metaphors, metonymy, irony, hyperbole - non-literal expression are tools for achieving economy of expression, clarity, persuasiveness, politeness and the communication of emotions. But the potential for misunderstanding increases dramatically when participants lack shared background knowledge, or have significantly different views of the world.

Who are the Supreme Court judges who might thwart ‘the will of the people’- What are their backgrounds, their politics’ In response to these questions in the last few months, Professor Erika Rackley of Birmingham Law School will explain why the job of judges is simply to apply the law made by our elected Parliament. But this reassurance is based on an understanding of judging that is at best only half true; it does sometimes matter who our judges are.

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