Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Resilience
Secondary Theme: The Political
Anthropological scholarship has explored how systemic forces define, constrain, and govern people's lives, while paying less attention to, or being deeply suspicious of, the joys and pleasures of human experience. This panel considers the embodied experience of joy as a sensory force that sways people's lives amidst and against the forces of structural violence. An emphasis on joy does not deny the pervasiveness of violence and social suffering, nor that, as Lauren Berlant and Sara Ahmed have pointed out, happiness can also be a construct used to justify social oppression. Rather, this panel pays ethnographic attention to embodied experiences of joy and happiness as transitory spaces or moments of vitality that reverberate in everyday life. This joy can be individual or collective, arising from losing oneself in an activity to contemplating and creating beauty. We aim to discuss how such experiences may become the basis for artistic creativity, political mobilization, the building of community or creating a new sense of self. This panel holds open the possibility of dwelling in joy itself as a realm of experience that could generate its own forms of analysis. We suggest that a focus on joy as an ethnographic object of study challenges the centrality of critique in the discipline's ethical claims, while also inspiring new theoretical outlooks.