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How has wellness and ‘well-being’ been understood and represented through history and across the world? What might an engagement with Asia tell us about well-being? And what might exploring these questions reveal about how we should pursue our own wellness and that of others in the context of converging environmental and social crises?
In this interdisciplinary breadth subject, we examine these issues through engaging with debates in science, medicine, geography, anthropology, design, and other disciplines. We also focus especially on Asia and, within this, South Asia, a region with a ‘special relationship’ to ideas of well being. A key argument is that close reflection on different wellness traditions in Asia, and especially South Asia, can change our scholarly and personal understanding of what constitutes well being and happiness.
In Part I of the subject – titled ‘Orientations’ – we examine the science and philosophy of human well-being and ‘happiness’, engaging especially with work in neuroscience, philosophy, and the social sciences. We also look at different approaches to wellness within different religious, artistic, and architectural traditions in Asia and South Asia, with a particular focus on Buddhism and indigenous knowledge in South Asia and more broadly.
In Part II – ‘Wellness in Asia’ – we examine how ideas of ‘well-being’ figure in humanities and social science accounts of Asia and South Asia. We focus especially on the themes of the “nature of well being” and “the well-being of nature” in contemporary South Asia, drawing on the work of social scientists and scholars working in the environmental sphere as well as the expertise of scholars in the fields of design and fine art. This includes an examination of new efforts to rebuild well being and happiness, for example through new indigenous mobilisations India, the attempt to construct a national happiness index in Bhutan, the emergence of alternative environmental experiments in Nepal, and efforts to imagine well-being and happiness in architecture, planning, art, and geographical practices across South Asia and Asia more broadly.
In Part III – ‘Everyday Well-Being in South Asia’ - we narrow our focus to examine social science and public health accounts of the everyday experience of the poor in contemporary South Asia, with particular reference to issues around health and the impact of Covid-19. We consider how a health crisis may, somewhat paradoxically, also lead to new reflection on what constitutes well-being and new experiments in the representation of well-being and happiness, including within indigenous communities.
In every component of the subject, we will seek to provide students with a capacity to apply, experience, and produce wellness in their own lives and those of others. We will also foster an appreciation of what types of scholarly evidence and analysis are required to understand well-being from multiple disciplinary and geographical perspectives and across the humanities/social science and sciences boundary.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- Collate, summarise, and evaluate scholarly work relating to well-being with particular reference to South Asia
- Identify different disciplinary approaches to well-being, including work that uses medical evidence, environmental data, large data sets, in-depth anthropological case studies, and arts and design practice
- Apply a comparative perspective to the study of well-being, for example understanding differences between how well-being is understood in different South Asian countries
- Illustrate why it is important to study well-being and appreciate how the subject's content might be applied in students' own lives
- Work with student colleagues from diverse backgrounds and appreciate different personal approaches to understanding, experiencing, and producing well being.
Upon successful completion of this subject, students will have skills in:
- reading, presenting, and synthesising scholarly research
- conducting library searches for relevant literatures
- analysing conceptual ideas
- thinking across different contexts to identify comparative opportunities
- reflecting on different disciplinary approaches
- appreciation of the value of different students' perspectives
Last updated: 20 February 2024