quality, vitality and health in the 21st century
an international conference
4th - 6th of March 2021, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- Aditya Bharadwaj, Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
- Jeannette Pols, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
- Nikolas Rose, Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College London
- Susan Reynolds Whyte, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen
- Joe Dumit, Department of Anthropology, University of California Davis
While still (too) many people die from fatal diseases, more and more people all around the world are living with chronic conditions. Qualitative aspects of daily living, thus, emerge as objects of knowledge as well as sites of interventions just as “lifestyle” and “wellbeing” figure as targets of more and more health and welfare interventions. “Quality of life” has become a quality of care parameter measured by medical professionals who provide treatments for diseases that cannot be cured, only lived with. A “normal life” has become the promise in advertisements that pharmaceutical companies bring out. Preventive (mental) health interventions, “positive living” HIV projects, and patient associations, while providing advice and support families on how best to “live with” a particular condition, feed into imperatives of living well.
With this move towards quality, vitality and health, and with chronic living as object at the intersection of knowledge production and intervention, a new politics of living continues to unfold which poses methodological, theoretical, and normative challenges in the social sciences of medicine. Medical anthropology, sociology, STS and other neighbouring disciplines have a long tradition of studying the processes of living with (chronic) disease. Countless ethnographic studies have provided insights about how all around the world people go about their everyday life endeavours while actually living with depression, dementia, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease and more. As a result, a wide range of analytical tools and theoretical repertoires have emerged to grasp “chronic living” ranging from experience (intersubjectivity), existential meaning (leading a moral/ethical life), suffering (struggling along), belonging (relationality), doing (tinkering), performance (affordances) or as an object of disciplining (subjectivation).
The Chronic Living conference aims to engage, unpack, explore and tackle quality, vitality and health, which is to say chronic living and the politics of living that are at stake in it, and asks questions such as:
- What does a politics of living look like today in different parts of the world amidst demographic, epidemiological, fertility and care transitions as well as widening inequality gaps?
- In which ways is the daily living, quality of life and/or wellbeing of individuals and communities targeted and sought to be improved?
- How do we get to know about daily living? Whose daily living and whose knowledge?
- How have the daily lives of persons identified as ‘at risk’ come to be targeted through preventive health interventions and of those living with (chronic) conditions come to be targeted in efforts to improve their lives?
- How do people with (chronic) conditions and their significant others strive to live as well as possible with disease? Which particular rhythms, disruptions and potentials characterize the antidepressant-lives, chemo-lives, immunosuppressant-lives, dialysis-lives, factor-lives, antiretroviral-lives, transplant-lives, corticosteroid-lives, insulin-lives and more that millions of people (and their families) lead or seek to access?
- How do (formal and informal) care practices afford people diagnosed with a disease and their significant others to live well? How has the provision of health care and ideas and practices of “good care” changed as in different parts of an unequal world more and more people live with (often multiple) chronic conditions, at times in conjunction with the vicissitudes of ageing?
The Chronic Living conference takes place from 4-6 March 2021.