Geographies of wellbeing: researching what it takes to make a ‘life worth living’

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Katharine Mckinnon, Jane Farmer
Chairs: Stephen Healy

Call for Submissions

Geographers conducting research related to questions of well being are encouraged to submit an abstract for this session. Contributions can be both methodological and empirical, and may consider a range of themes, including but not limited to:
• The spatiality of wellbeing
• Critical reflection on the normative definitions and the measurement of wellbeing
• Diverse ontologies of wellbeing, across gender, culture, class, sexuality, disability and the more-than-human world
• Examples of wellbeing economies in action
• The role of social enterprise, commons movements and alternative economic initiatives in making wellbeing the focus of economic practice
• Social capital measures of wellbeing and social inclusion
• Innovative methods for researching wellbeing

If you are interested in participating please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, your name, affiliation, and e-mail address, to by October 11th. We will notify you on October 21st of whether your contribution has been accepted. At that point we will ask you to submit through the AAG website and provide us with your PIN number.


Geographers have long been concerned with broad questions of wellbeing, but there is less direct critical engagement with what wellbeing is, how we apprehend it through research, and how we use the concept in practice. Tom Rath and Jim Harter (2010) claim that there are 5 essential elements to wellbeing, shared across cultures: “Well-being is about the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities. Most importantly, it’s about how these five elements interact.” While Rath and Harter focus on subjective experience and individual happiness, other authors remind us that living a good life; is something that is both enabled, and experienced, collectively.

The April 2018 launch of the international Wellbeing Economy Alliance highlights how wellbeing is back on the agenda for social movements interested in rethinking economy (Costanza el al 2018). But how are we to apprehend wellbeing at the community level? The OECD metrics of wellbeing rest on assessing access to income, jobs, health, access to services, environment, education, safety, civic engagement and housing. Carlisle et al (2009) and others point out, however, that the ‘life worth living’ cannot just be about material wealth or personal happiness, particularly when connected with concerns for the environment. Carlisle et al hope that an awareness of the connections between wellbeing and environment could counter trends towards materialism, individualism and consumerism. Species interconnectedness and interdependence with planetary others is at the heart of community economies research, and the concern to account for what it takes to ‘survive well together’: not just meeting our own material, or emotional or spiritual needs, but with the awareness that to survive well humans must consider the needs and wellbeing of human and non-human others (Gibson-Graham, Cameron, Healy 2015). For the Yawaru people of Australia, wellbeing hinges on mabu liyan: Strong connection to country, culture, family, community and identity (Yap and Yu 2016). Material wellbeing is well down the list.

What is wellbeing? What does it mean to live a good life? How are communities or organisations working to build something that might be described as ‘wellbeing economies’? What methods can account for wellbeing or the resources needed to live ‘a good life’? This session seeks to bring together recent geographical research that is grappling with these concerns.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter David Conradson*, University of Canterbury, Recognition, attunement and wellbeing: observations from a post-disaster city 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Noëlle Boucquey*, Eckerd College, Contested commoning: urban fishing infrastructures and community wellbeing 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Jane Farmer*, Swinburne University of Technology, Design me a wellbeing workplace: using spatial methods and theory to engage social enterprise managers 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Magalie Quintal-Marineau*, Institut national de recherche scientifique, Using migration as a strategy for family and community wellbeing 20 9:00 AM
Presenter ANNE HERTZOG*, University of CERGY PONTOISE, Building wellbeing indicators with participative methodology : complexity and limits of a place based approach of wellbeing 20 9:20 AM

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