Of Bodily & Anthropological Matters: Self-Improvement in the Age of Wellness (AAA CFP)

In search of papers for wellness panel at AAA. Tentative abstract below.

If interested contact Lindsay.Bell@oswego.edu

Of Bodily and Anthropological Matters: Self-Improvement in the Age of Wellness

In recent years, social scientists from the global north have come out against what is constituted as ‘the wellness industry’. This term brings together diverse bodily practices from yoga and meditation, to fitness and running, to colonics, green juice and taking a vitamin regimen. The global wellness industry is said to gross 3.7 trillion dollars per year. This remarkable trend in spending, we argue, should garner more curiosity as to what modes of relating to self/society these practices engender in diverse locales. What sociologist William Davies dubs “The Happiness Industry” (Verso, 2015) is often analyzed in the abstract and dismissed as the privatization of aspirations for the good life by Big Capital. Instead of understanding these trends in general, this panel investigates the particularities of self-improvement in a variety of geopolitical contexts. While leftist academics André Spicer and Carl Cederström understand these bodily habits as symptoms of a global “Wellness Syndrome” (Polity, 2015) laden with individualizing undertones, our case studies reveal otherwise. Collectively, the papers ask us to reconsider self-improvement through anthropological lenses. How might self-improvement actions and aspirations in an age of wellness act as windows into larger questions about the nature of human experience, embodied political economy, the relationship between the self and the social, and the entanglement of language, body and mind? Through situated analyses of communities engaged in various ideas of what it means to be ‘well’, these papers describe the lifeworlds made possible by specific improvement pursuits.

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Filed under AAA 2017 Washington DC, anthropology

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