The Art & Science of Happiness

What does it mean to be “happy”? What are the biological, physiological, psychological, emotional, social and cultural factors that contribute to making a person or community “happy”? Do these factors vary by gender, age, class, ethnicity, nationality, or sexuality, and if so, how? How do humor, laughter, economic security, political stability, friendship, family, children, careers, health, drugs, hobbies, community involvement, sex, personal fulfillment, social connections, and other domains contribute (or not) to one’s sense of being happy? How is happiness expressed and represented in music, art, literature, film, performance and other domains? What does the comparative study of “happiness” across time and space tell us about commonalities and differences in the human experience?

This seminar explored how attention to “happiness” includes but also moves us beyond “desire” and “pleasure” as defining tropes in studies of women, gender and sexuality to consider other motivations, emotional states, and ways of being. Participants' projects encompassed a range of methodologies and theoretical perspectives, exploring the definitions of happiness in fields ranging from Psychology and Literary and Cultural Studies to Sociology and Anthroplogy. Some of the overlapping themes that emerged through our discussions over the year involved the relevance of happiness to public policy, the difficulty of parsing happiness in academic work, and the complex relationship between gender and the study of emotions.


irw seminar 2010-11

Pictured: Lincoln Addison (and daughter Naomi), Claudia Brazzale, Ben. Sifuentes-Jáuregui, Briavel Holcomb, C. Laura Lovin, Neha Gondal, Valeria Garrote, Kristen Springer, Samantha Costanza, Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Susan Marchand, Damaris Otero-Torres, Sarah Tobias, Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel, Alex Warner, Yvette Taylor, Marlene Importico. Not pictured: Ioana Cirstocea, Monika Rogowska, Susana Galán, Karen Zurlo.

2010-11 seminar participants included fellows from departments including Anthropology, Psychology, Spanish and Portuguese, Planning and Public Policy and Women's and Gender Studies, as well as IRW Global Scholars from Italy, France and Spain.

Seminar Schedule

Seminar Abstracts