An Unwell World?
Anthropology in a Speculative Mode
SOAS, University of London
11 - 14 April 2023 add to calendar links
The 2023 ASA conference ‘An Unwell World? Anthropology in a Speculative Mode’ focused on the world we live in today. Three years into a pandemic, faced with dramatic climate events, new international conflict, profound social inequality, spiralling energy costs, and what has been dubbed a global crisis in mental health, the world appears to be fundamentally unwell. As critical scholars of the social and cultural, anthropologists often adopt a diagnostic and descriptive mode of analysis, identifying problems and tracing their sources and effects. But what possibilities for healing—alternative pathways to repair, restoration, redistribution, resolution—might lie dormant in our analyses? What space can we allow for anthropology as a source of future solutions—visions of wellness, whatever the domain and however defined—in addition to critique?
Five broad thematic areas articulated with the overarching question of (un)well-being, whether flourishing, making do, surviving, struggling, declining, or dying: Planet, Habitation, Politics and Governance, Relations, Bodies/Minds. With these themes, we prompted reflection and open discussion on the purpose and purchase of anthropology on a troubled and damaged planet. Focused on questions of illness and health, well-being and being-unwell, in bodily, institutional, ecological, spiritual, and psychological domains, we invite contributions exploring how anthropological knowledge might envision, anticipate, and forge alternative futures.
The conference was an opportunity for anthropologists to come together to reflect on our own recent experiences, perhaps most glaringly (but not only) of the pandemic, and explicitly revisit our anthropological practice and priorities in a newly post(?)-pandemic world. Within the regular conference format there were workshops on personal and collective resilience, self-awareness, and finding balance and changing disciplinary epistemologies and methods. These took place in recognition of, and in response to, the experience of anthropologists through the pandemic, emerging climate crisis and accelerating political uncertainty.
The conference was held at SOAS University of London. SOAS is the leading Higher Education institution in the UK and Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa, the Near and Middle East and their diasporas. The Anthropology Department at SOAS leads the way in exploring the big issues of our time. Located at the heart of the historic Bloomsbury area of London, SOAS is close to the other colleges of the University of London, the British Museum, the British Library, and the West End’s theatres. The nearest underground station, Russell Square, offers a direct link to Heathrow Airport and several of London’s main railway stations are within easy reach. London’s rich cultural and social life is literally on SOAS’s doorstep!