The Art & Science of Happiness

Thursday, September 16, 2010
"Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires"
Carol Graham
, Brookings Institution and School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
(5:30 p.m. lecture; reception immediately following)**

This lecture reviews the theory and concepts of happiness, explaining how they represent a line of research which is both an attempt to understand the determinants of happiness and a tool for understanding the effects of a host of phenomena on human well being. There is surprising consistency in the determinants of happiness across levels of development in countries around the world, ranging from Peru and Russia to the U.S. and Afghanistan. Yet there is still much debate over the relationship between happiness and income. The author will discuss the effects of many mediating factors in that relationship, ranging from macroeconomic trends and democracy to inequality and crime, and review what we know about happiness and health. She will also discuss the potential—and the potential pitfalls—of using happiness surveys to contribute to better public policy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010
"Empathy and the Critic"
Ann Jurecic
, Rutgers
(4 p.m. reception; 4:30 p.m. lecture)

Casual readers report that reading is most satisfying when they identify with the characters, fictional or real, who are depicted in prose. While such empathic reading practices rarely have currency in literature departments, in medical schools, a new wave of courses in clinical practice are designed to encourage identification. Students read literature and write narratives that have the explicit goal of engendering empathy, compassion, ethical behavior, and fulfillment in future physicians. There are many reasons to be skeptical of this didactic use of literature and writing; critics of readerly empathy have long drawn attention to the risks that accompany the act of identification—projection, appropriation, and oppression. But do critics go too far in disavowing empathy? This lecture addresses recent efforts to define affectively positive critical practices that acknowledge and complicate empathic understanding.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010
"Willful Women: Feminism, Happiness and the General Will"
Sara Ahmed
, Goldsmith's College, University of London
(4 p.m. reception; 4:30 p.m. lecture)

This paper locates the figure of the feminist killjoy within a history of willful women. To be willful is to cause unhappiness by not aligning your will with the general will. To be willful has been described as a relation of part to whole: a particular will is willful when it does not will the happiness of the body of which it is a part. Willfulness is a charge of rebellion, where the rebel is a part. This paper argues that feminists should accept and mobilize the charge of willfulness. Not only can we challenge the idea that happiness is what we do or should will, but willfulness can offer us a style of politics, a way of refusing to 'be part.'

Thursday, February 3, 2011
"Race, Gender, and Well-Being: The Paradox of Women's Mental Health"
Sarah Rosenfield
, Rutgers
(4 p.m. reception; 4:30 p.m. lecture)

Drawing on cultural and social psychological approaches to stratification, this presentation explores why African Americans, especially African American women, possess similar or better mental health than whites despite facing discrimination and economic disadvantages.  Self-salience schemas are beliefs about the relative importance of the self versus others, ranging from those that highly privilege the self over others to those that strongly privilege others over the self.  The balance of high self-regard and regard for others protects individuals from a range of psychological problems, including internalizing problems of depression and anxiety and externalizing problems of anti-social behavior. Rooted in contrasting conceptions of femininity, African American women have a more balanced self-other regard than white and other groups of women, contributing to their better than expected mental health.

Thursday, March 24, 2011
"Happily Doing Feminism: African Americans Putting Theory into Everyday Practice"
Aaronette White
, UC Santa Cruz
(4 p.m. reception; 4:30 p.m. lecture)***

This presentation uses concrete examples to illuminate the ways in which African Americans practice feminism on a day-to-day basis. Drawing from a forthcoming collection of essays, entitled African Americans Doing Feminism, the talk illustrates real-life situations of feminism in action, tackling a range of issues including personal finances, parenting, sexual harassment, reproductive freedom, incest, depression, addiction and romantic relationships. The talk reveals how feminist principles affect people's perceptions of their ability to change themselves and society, because the personal is not always self-evidently political.

Thursday, April 7, 2011
"Gender, Social Desire and 'Genteel' Caribbean Popular Culture"
Belinda Edmondson
, Rutgers
(4 p.m. reception; 4:30 p.m. lecture)

This lecture explores “genteel” or upwardly mobile, English-speaking Caribbean popular culture from racial and gendered perspectives. In that the Caribbean is usually defined in schismatic terms—the authentic working class versus the inauthentic elites—this analysis seeks to undermine that model by tracing the evolution of middle class popular culture, defined in key ways by the social desires of Caribbean women.


**Carol Graham's lecture is co-sponsored with the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and is part of the Ruth Ellen Steinman and Edward J. Bloustein Memorial Lecture Series. It will be held at the Special Events Forum, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, 33 Livingston Avenue, Rutgers-New Brunswick. This lecture will start at 5:30 p.m. to be followed by a reception. All other lectures will be held at the Ruth Dill Johnson Crockett Building, 162 Ryders Lane, Douglass Campus, Rutgers-New Brunswick, starting at 4:30 p.m. and preceded by a 4 p.m. reception.

***Aaronette White’s lecture is co-sponsored with The Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics and RU FAIR ADVANCE.

All lectures are free and open to the public.




2010-2011 IRW Distinguished Lecture Series Poster
2010-2011 Distinguished Lecture Series Schedule (.pdf)