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Andrea Butcher

In Ladakh, north-west India, a popular narrative of the region’s inhabitants as spiritually and ecologically enlightened combines with national sustainable and participatory development policies to produce a distinctive character that underpins the local administration’s development strategies. These strategies emphasise ‘traditional’ values of cooperation, simplicity, and ecological and spiritual harmony as the way to achieve culturally sustainable development and emotional well-being. However, obstacles to development appear when normative principles of sustainability and ecological wisdom encounter local cosmology, hierarchy and perceptions of expertise in society. In this article, I refl ect upon my fieldwork and previous regional ethnographies to consider possible frameworks for evaluating well-being as an indicator of culturally sustainable development that include concepts of cosmology and expert protection.

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Anthony Glendinning, Ol'ga Pak and Iurii V. Popkov

The study looks at young people's situations in small communities in Siberia against a backdrop of socioeconomic and rural-urban divides in post-Soviet Russia. Focusing on the end of compulsory schooling, the study looks at the fit between young people's accounts of their circumstances, aspirations for the future and feelings about themselves, as well as implications for mental well-being. A mixed-methods approach is adopted, including preliminary fieldwork, a large-scale survey (n approximately 700) and in-depth interviews (n approximately 90). Situations and well-being in rural areas and small towns in Novosibirskaia oblast' are compared with life in the city of Novosibirsk. There is stark segmentation by locality. In small communities, the household 'copes' along with the young person in shared goals and understandings and in aspiring to get 'an education' as a means to secure employment and a 'comfortable' life beyond subsistence. Most households locally share the same situations. Almost all imagine continuing their education and leaving their home communities, dependent on family resources and networks. Horizons are limited to towns in the region, or perhaps the city, seen as a place of possibilities but also risks. Beyond the rural household, the collectivity of peers represents another key resource in negotiating and maintaining self-worth. Neither individualism nor the reach of 'global' culture is evident. Young people are embedded in the 'local', but despite their situations and poor prospects, these do not affect their sense of themselves. If anything, profiles of mental well-being and, certainly, self-worth are better in rural communities compared to the city.

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Tamils' Quest for Well-Being

Moving as a Success or Failure?

Anne Sigfrid Grønseth

During a period of about 15 years, Tamil refugees have resided in the small fishing villages along the arctic coast of northern Norway. Employing an ethnographic approach that emphasizes agency and experience in everyday life, this study describes how Tamils face a lack of crucial social and religious relationships and arenas that provide recognition and meaning to their daily lives. Not being able to give voice to their social experiences, the Tamils suffer from bodily aches and pains. As part of the Tamils' search for recognition, community and quest for well-being, they have relocated to places that provide a more complete Tamil community. To assess whether the Tamils' choice of leaving the fishing villages is a success or failure is a complex matter. Exploring the intricacies of this decision, this article discusses the links between the 'narrative of suffering' and the Tamils' decision to move.

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Quality in the Balance

On the Adaptive and Mimetic Nature of Subjective Well-Being

Thierry Kochuyt

‘Quality’ and ‘well-being’ are topical issues and part of their success is based on the suggestion that we have here hard and solid notions on which one can built a new and better society. As normative standards, they anticipate an ideal state from which the actual reality of things can be evaluated as deficient. In this light poverty appears as a sore phenomenon, an infringement of what the quality of life and well-being are all about. In an attempt to qualify this quality of life, the present article focuses on western poverty and its (lacking) sense of well-being. Turning these notions into norms, one should check if ‘quality’ and ‘well-being’ are transparent i.e., referring to unambiguous evaluations that can be assessed objectively. While common and moral sense supposes so, science has to doubt this assumption. The following is based on empirical research in different fields and some theoretical reflections. Bringing these together we try to identify the subjective mechanisms that trouble the notions of quality and well-being. Indeed, there are distorting forces at work, which create and abort the subjective experiences of quality and well-being and thereby nullify their evaluative potential.

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Jhan Van de Kerckhove

The current prevention policy continues to be reactive. It is even negative and demotivating. This atmosphere is destroying the working conditions we need in our new social-economic environment. Quality of work has become top of the agenda together with creativity, personal development and involvement. The human being is transformed from a potential source of disturbance into an essential success factor. A new approach to prevention policy is imposing itself in this context. Caring for safety, health and well-being of the employees at the same time means caring for the well-being and the future of the organization. The great challenge now becomes the development of the human potential. In that perspective a real proactive prevention policy is needed. Proactivity implies prevention but goes much further. Real proactivity refers to the dreams and positive objectives people wish to see realised. Well-being, participation and empowerment of all participants are important targets while the expected implications for culture are commitment, trust and open communication. This approach is very close to the conditional factors of social quality as described in the report of the European Foundation on the European Network Indicators of Social Quality.

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Single mothers in Osh

Well-being and coping strategies of women in the aftermath of the 2010 conflict in Kyrgyzstan

Aksana Ismailbekova

After the 2010 intercommunal violence in Kyrgyzstan, women in the city of Osh were exposed to many difficulties. Conflict eroded people's contentment, and satisfactory living conditions were supplanted by increased challenges—such as deteriorating health and education systems, declining communication and economic opportunities, and the loss of property. Men's deaths during the conflict and the increased labor migration of men after the conflict also resulted in increased numbers of single mothers. This article presents trends among women, examines their coping mechanisms, and explores the well-being of single mothers by considering what makes women's lives meaningful in a postconflict situation.

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Jan Berting

Van Bruggen’s theoretical and empirical analysis raises many questions about research on subjective well-being. I concede that this can be seen as an important merit of her contribution. I hope that this observation will contribute to her own subjective well-being, which, according to her preface, has not always been enhanced by doing research in this area. But then such is the common fate of those who are engaged in research.

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Robin Oakley

The constitution, the law of the land of the modern state, is fertile ground for the Eurocentric imagination of the Canadian polity as a result of the resiliency of Victorian-era sentiments. The ethno-racial hierarchy contained within this political imagery merges well with the public health mandate process of 'othering'. Othering situates the causes of disease and illness in foreign bodies rather than in the social structures of industrial capitalism. Chief among its morbid symptoms, othering produces a sense of alienation in those subjected to it. Sri Lankan Tamils are one of the newer migrant populations who have been subjected to, and have resisted this intrinsically violent othering process. This article examines the Canadian constitution as it relates to ethno-racial classification, and then explores how this scheme is reproduced in common experiences of the public health system and its effects on the health and well-being of Canadian Tamils.

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Aging Away

Immigrant Families, Elderly Care, Ethnography and Policy

Rita Henderson

This article considers how immigrant retention relates to family obligations, drawing a complex portrait of a common family dilemma involving the care of aging kin. The ethnographic life-history approach offers an important perspective on how health and well-being are not simply structured by formal access to institutions of care, but by the socio-cultural, economic and geographic flexibility of families to accommodate their needs. Analysis draws on the interdependant migration histories of a family of six adult sisters originating in Tanzania. In the case of this family, the dilemma surrounding the care of aging parents is not so much caused by migration's disruption of traditional filial obligations. Instead, it is the effect of social pressures stirred in both sending and receiving countries, which frame opportunities for eventual social integration, relocation or sometimes reluctant repatriation. A reflexive approach argues for the active presence of ethnographers in policy debates.

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Sandra S. Butler and Adrienne L. Cohen

This article presents two independent studies examining the experiences of older adults aging in rural environments in the United States. In face-to-face interviews, study participants (n = 66 in study 1 and n = 8 in study 2) were asked what they like about aging in a rural area and what they found challenging. Interview transcripts were analyzed for recurring themes in each study and striking similarities were found with regard to the importance of nature or “aesthetic capital” to the well-being of the study participants. Primary themes emerging from study 1 data included peace, safety, beauty, space, and interacting with nature. The themes emerging from the second study included the world outside the window, traveling around by car, and longing for natural beauty. A negative theme that emerged from both studies related to the dearth of health and social services in rural areas. Implications of the studies' findings with regard to the value of nature in the lives of elders are discussed in relation to practice, policy, and planning.