While it is often assumed to be a characteristic of individuals, health is, in many ways, a global production, emergent at the nexus of political and economic interests.
The political and economic dimensions of health and wellbeing run much deeper than the life chances of individuals, or even the aggregate well-being of particular societies. Instead, they include different flows of capital, adjudications of value, avenues of profit-making, forms of care, mechanisms of accountability, and temporalities of perceptibility that vary across the local to global scale.
All of these dimensions variously interact in producing health and wellbeing for some, while undermining it for others. Looking beyond individual’s experiences of illness, in the ‘Politics of Economies of Health and Wellbeing’ theme our researchers foreground the connections between health and its global political and economic dimensions to reimagine what health and wellbeing mean - individually, collectively and planetarily.
While health is often attributed to supposed biological differences based on racial or ethnic status, we consider the relationship between race, ethnicity, and health across various social contexts, exploring how social, economic, political, and environmental factors contribute to disparities in health and become biologised.
Within the ‘Race, Ethnicity and the Biohumanities’ theme our researchers draw on critical scholarship to examine a broad and often-amorphous arena that encompasses efforts in (and relays between) the biological sciences, clinical medicine and public health, the pharmaceutical industry, and patient and community-based advocacy to address minority health and illness.
Taking a biohumanities approach—which foregrounds humanities and social sciences perspectives on the contours of biological life—our concern is to map how poor health is linked to forms of racism, inequality, and structural violence.
Taking a ‘healthy societies’ approach to questions of care, we carefully consider how care is imagined and enacted in ways that are productive or deleterious not only of what we typically think of as health and wellness, but of the more general conditions of human and more-than-human flourishing, too.
Such an approach takes seriously the historical, social, political, and economic contexts in which bodies and selves are variously drawn into relations of care with each other, with institutions, with the social and economic order, and with built and natural environments.
Within the ‘Health/Care Across Time, Place and Scale’ theme, our researchers are developing innovative scholarship across the full spectrum of the social sciences and humanities, including rethinking health and care, across time, place and scale. This entails considering care as a relation, ethic, practice, and infrastructure across scales from the microbial to the planetary. In this way, we reposition care as a key organising principle of contemporary societies – as central not only to the health and wellbeing of the people within them, but as central to the health of societies themselves.
Health and wellbeing are deeply embedded in the multiple dimensions of ‘welfare’ across place and setting, which include, but extend well beyond, the formalised welfare state.
Welfare, in the broadest sense, refers to the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities, but it also necessarily denotes the institutional structures (i.e. social security, housing, education, employment) through which it is shaped.
Within the ‘Work, Education and Welfare’ theme, our researchers use sociological, political science and anthropological approaches as well as the specialist techniques of policy, governance, regulation and administrative analysis, to focus on the critical analysis of the multifarious institutions of work, education and welfare, including, but not limited to: informal care; formal employment and working conditions; state-provided and marketised income assistance; formal education (including early childhood, schools, and the technical and higher education levels); public and private housing; and, how these spheres intersect with community health and wellbeing.
Food is not merely a bare necessity, required to sustain life, it is fundamentally social. How it is grown, produced, and manufactured; how it is processed, transported, and distributed; how it is ‘made safe’ and variously ‘made available’; how it is selected, prepared and consumed; and the pervasive paradoxes of access and excess all include a wide range of social, economic and political dimensions.
Within the ‘Social Life of Food and Nourishment’ theme, we examine food and nourishment in their full social contexts and from a multidisciplinary perspective at the intersections of the economy, environment, culture, and politics. If we look closely, the social life of food and nourishment tells an evolving story, inclusive of, but not limited to: accelerating inequality, multispecies dilemmas, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, geopolitical tensions, global financial incentives and much more.
Food can be seen as a broad-based social issue, in and of itself. But it can also serve as a useful lens through which to examine and address some of the most pressing social problems facing our world, today.