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Creating well-being: biosocial approaches to practices of making well

11. April – 14. April 2023 

Pan­el at the ASA 2023 con­fer­ence „An Unwell World? Anthro­pol­o­gy in a Spec­u­la­tive Mode” at the Uni­ver­si­ty of London

Short Abstract:
This pan­el is con­cerned with how peo­ple in diverse con­texts ‚make well’ as a bioso­cial phe­nom­e­non. If cre­ativ­i­ty is ‘a poet­ics of mak­ing’, what are peo­ple hop­ing to cre­ate in gen­er­at­ing well-being, how do they go about it and what are the effects on the health of bod­ies and society?
Long Abstract:

In their explo­ration of what ‘life is worth’, Mars­land and Prince (2012) con­tend that anthro­pol­o­gists’ ten­den­cy to focus on the dystopic – on vio­lence, suf­fer­ing, depri­va­tion, des­ti­tu­tion and bare life – comes at the expense of begin­ning with people’s every­day sit­u­at­ed con­cerns. Con­verse­ly, ‘an anthro­pol­o­gy of hope’ (Corsin-Jimenez, 2008) can point us in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion towards how peo­ple cre­ate what Thin (2008) calls ‘nor­mal hap­pi­ness’ or the con­di­tion of being well, despite ever-threat­en­ing sources of harm and mis­ery. This pan­el seeks con­tri­bu­tions that explore the notion of well-being as a bioso­cial phe­nom­e­non. It asks how we can fruit­ful­ly access, mea­sure, analyse and grasp how peo­ple make lives with worth and the effect this has on their health. If cre­ativ­i­ty is ‘a poet­ics of mak­ing’ (McLean, 2009), what are peo­ple in a vari­ety of con­texts hop­ing to cre­ate in the gen­er­a­tion of well-being, how do they go about mak­ing these hopes mate­ri­al­ize and what are the effects of these dif­fer­ent poet­ics of mak­ing on bod­ies and soci­ety? In par­tic­u­lar, we invite papers that engage with the role of phe­nom­e­na such as fun, joy, play, cre­ativ­i­ty, imag­i­na­tion, exper­i­men­ta­tion and resource­ful­ness in gen­er­at­ing well-being and/or that con­sid­er how bioso­cial anthro­pol­o­gy might method­olog­i­cal­ly account for the role of well-being prac­tices on health.

Please do get in touch if you have any ques­tions about the panel.


Dalia Iskan­der

Head of Med­ical Anthropology

Lec­tur­er (Teach­ing) in Med­ical Anthropology

UCL Depart­ment of Anthropology

14 Tavi­ton Street | Lon­don | WC1H 0BW