Exploring the Contours of Wellness and Health
International Conference, HDEA research unit, Sorbonne University, 23, 24 and 25 March 2023
Contact address for abstract submissions and inquiries: HDEA2023@gmail.com
Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 June 2022 (see below for details)
The aim of this conference is to study the general question of wellness and health, primarily in English-speaking countries, but it also welcomes comparative approaches in other countries or regions. This conference will attempt to shed light on the practices, principles, values or institutions which have had an impact on health and wellness, both from a strictly medical point of view and from a broader moral or social perspective. The WHO defines health not only as the absence of disease, but as a “state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing”. Yet this seemingly simple definition hides a wide range of different interpretations, as health can be understood in varying ways: individual but also collective, private and public; related to political, social, economic and cultural factors that have themselves constantly evolved. To try and map the contours of health, it is therefore necessary to study how individuals engage with their own health, but also the society to which they belong and the environment in which they live. As for wellness, it can be understood as “a set of practices, choices and lifestyles” leading to the achievement of personal satisfaction (Global Wellness Institute).
While the two notions of health and wellness are thus very closely linked, they should not necessarily be taken as interchangeable or equivalent. Health is indeed seen only as one condition among others of wellness; just as it can be totally dissociated from it. The study of the tensions, interactions, borders between health and wellness is thus a particularly fertile and stimulating question to explore, but it will also be possible to separate these two notions and to focus on only one or the other.
The context of the Covid-19 pandemic obviously invites us to reflect more deeply on these questions, and our conference’s theme certainly lends itself to attempts at drawing some conclusions and lessons from recent events. But the broader objective of the conference will rather be to try and trace the contours of wellness and health, both from a historical point of view and from more contemporary perspectives, in all their forms, be they artistic, sociological, political or economic, from modern times to the present day.
This conference aims at adopting as broad a perspective as possible, and the following is a non-exhaustive list of possible themes that papers might explore:
• Boundaries between private health and public health
• Health policies and their evolution (the Welfare State, the National Health Service (NHS), Obamacare v “Medicare for all” in the US)
• Health and wellness in times of conflict (war medicine, the health of civilians, reflections on wellness in armies)
• Interdependence of human health, animal health, and ecosystems (see for example the recent "One Health" movement, and its histories)
• The production, development, and delineation of urban or natural spaces in relations to wellness and health (parks, sanitation policies, urban planning and climate change)
• Health, wellness and sport
• The development of leisure, changes in consumption patterns, in relation to individual and collective well-being (rise of "wellness centers" and of the wellness industry)
• Health and diet, health and lifestyles (including the workplace and how socio-professional risks are framed)
• Wellness and spirituality: “New Age”-type counter-cultural movements
• Health, wellness and religious practices (the search for a form of moral health, or through the involvement of religious institutions in the care institutions)
• Health, wellness and social justice
• The pursuit of wellness as a gendered issue
• Health and family and/or birth policies, debates on abortion and sexuality
• Health, capitalism, and the development of biomedical technologies, AI, telehealth, etc.
• Health and social and political struggles, health and freedom; but also difficulties in accessing care; social, racial and sexual discrimination
• Health, exclusion, resilience, resistance, and cultural and identity issues
• Health and the environment: environmental battles, environmental justice, pollution, etc.
• Moral health and mental health
• Health and ethics
• Health, wellness and screens (television, cinema): past and contemporary representations of health and wellness on screen; the role played by television and the cinema in health education and reception by the public; framing and promotion of wellness by actors; possible resistance to standards of wellness publicized in the media
• Health, wellness and social networks: impact of such networks; representation and production of discourses related to health and wellness (debates on vaccination, “body positive” movements, etc.).