P185
In pursuit of "wellness"

Convenors:
Katrien Pype (KU Leuven University)
Julie Soleil Archambault (Concordia University)
Discussant:
Nancy Rose Hunt
Stream:
Panels
Location:
KH120
Start time:
29 June, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

This panel explores wellness in Africa as practice, mindset, enterprise and/or material culture, with a focus on how the recent "wellness craze", which speaks of shared anxieties and aspirations, intersects with religious and therapeutic practices.

Long abstract:

Wellness", the marker of good physical and mental health—is, no doubt, an age-old preoccupation. Closely connected to the notion of "well-being" - which in certain respects has a more relational connotation, a "wellness craze" has emerged in recent years, inspiring entrepreneurs and health practitioners all over the world. Indeed, the global health and wellness industry is now worth a trillion dollars and is making important headways across the African continent. Wellness is also transforming the urban landscape. Alongside the scores of joggers that take to the streets before the crack of dawn, public outdoor gyms have cropped up in parks across the continent while old colonial cinema halls that served as Pentecostal churches have now been converted into fitness centres. From the yoga retreats on Lake Malawi that mainly cater to a European market and the Chinese supermarkets that sell slimming teas to local consumers, the global wellness craze speaks of shared anxieties and aspirations. We invite ethnographically informed papers across the social sciences that explore "wellness" in Africa as practice, mindset, enterprise and/or material culture, and that engage with some of the following questions: How is wellness, as an individual pursuit requiring discipline and determination, building on and/or clashing with local notions of wellbeing and body aesthetics? How does the recent wellness craze intersect with more entrenched religious and therapeutic practices? How is wellness transforming the urban landscape and the usage of space? How does wellness participate in class formation? Should the pursuit of wellness be understood as an essentially middle class concern?