Well-Being and the Common Good
May 18-20, 2023
Conference Chair: John Millhauser
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
North Carolina State University
Conference Host: Hirokazu Miyazaki
Department of Anthropology
In our third year of a global pandemic, we are stretched thin, suffering touches us all, and our wells of empathy seem to be running dry. And yet, despite this suffering many of us are also paying closer attention to our own well-being and to the well-being of those around us. In this spirit of exploration and cautious hope, the theme of the 2023 Society for Economic Anthropology meeting will be “Well-Being and the Common Good.” The theme is inspired by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, whose capabilities approach to economics helped expand the study of wealth and inequality to non-economic measures such as health, education, civil rights, environmental safety, political freedom, and political representation. In so doing, they drew attention to the gap between well-being (what a person has achieved) and advantage (what a person has the real opportunity to achieve) and how material wealth can neither be the sole cause of nor the only solution to this gap.
In this light, the 2023 Society for Economic Anthropology meeting will explore capabilities, opportunities, and hope in the practice of economic anthropology. Drawing in part from a growing “anthropology of the good” (coined by Joel Robbins), we seek papers that challenge us to rethink the economy as one part of a total experience aimed at making life worthwhile. The anthropology of the good asks us to reflect on the values we hold as economic anthropologists and how these values lead us to investigate (or set aside) topics like well-being or the common good. Bringing these topics to the foreground of economic research can help us understand where we have fallen short and where we might succeed in efforts to study, reveal, highlight, and perhaps help people to achieve well-being and the common good.
As with previous meetings, a selection of papers presented will be included in a special issue of Economic Anthropology in 2024.
Please direct questions about the conference and potential paper topics to John Millhauser.
Suggested paper topics:
Economic anthropologist work across all of the sub-disciplines and specializations of anthropology. We welcome and encourage papers that showcase the range of anthropological efforts, including the work of archaeologists, linguistic anthropologists, biological anthropologists, medical anthropologists, and applied anthropologists among others.
- How are well-being and the common good defined, measured, and compared within and across cultures, economies, time, and space?
- How do different kinds of evidence (archaeological, biological, linguistic, etc…) affect our ability to study well-being and the common good?
- How are ideas related to well-being, such as care, the good life, quality of life, livelihood, and standards of living, defined, measured, and contested?
- How do hope and aspiration shape present experiences and imagined futures?
- How are notions of well-being and the common good related to identities and intersectionality in different cultural and historical contexts?
- What happens when one group imposes their ideas of well-being or the common good on another group (from the welfare state to global development)?
- How do more individualized (well-being) and more collective (common good) ideas and efforts relate to and affect one another? How do caring economies come into play?
- How is well-being variable across the human lifecycle, from infancy to old age?
- How do ideas regarding the temporality of well-being and the common good (imagining them in the future) influence decision making and behavior?
- How does dependency, or intervention, among different groups (within and among nations) play out in terms of well-being and the common good?
- How does a focus on well-being reveal and address disparities of wealth, health, etc.?
- How does economic anthropological research impact the well-being of others?
- In what ways do notions of making a living, work-life balance, forms of living, etc. encode or mystify ideas of well-being? What projects of future well-being do they enable?
- What sorts of well-being have been of particular concern to anthropologists? How might they reflect the anthropological milieu, framed by ethical orientations, available research methodologies, and the audiences to whom we speak?
- What narratives of well-being do qualitative and quantitative ways of investigating and comparing favor? How do particular methodologies reveal hidden suffering? How do they reveal hidden thriving or things that are going right?
- How has the pandemic shaped/changed our notions of well-being and common good?
Registration and Abstract Submission Guidelines
Paper submissions will commence in the late fall through the American Anthropological Association’s web portal and will require SEA (and AAA) membership. We intend for the meeting to be in person with hybrid capacity to be engaged as needed based on COVID conditions next year. The SEA provides a limited number of scholarships to attendees in financial need. Further details will be announced when the schedule for submitting paper topics is available.
Travel and Accommodations