Members of the Special Topic on Happiness and Culture of the Popular Culture Association seek paper proposals for the 2022 PCA conference in Seattle. The papers may focus on any aspect of the relationship between happiness (tentatively understood as subjective well-being) and broadly defined popular culture.
Philosophers and scholars have long argued that humans seek happiness above all else. You can get us to do, buy, create, accomplish, watch, or attend almost anything if the promised payoff is happiness. This makes the desire for happiness one of the most significant motivating forces in any culture.
While this desire is universally human, beliefs and attitudes about happiness (including if we have a right to expect it at all and how to go about pursuing it if we do) vary with changing religious views, economic conditions, historical periods, geographic locations, and other factors. Thus, both group and individual attitudes and beliefs about happiness are partly shaped by the culture/country/time period in which we live.
The definition of happiness that a community
eventually ends up with is often a result ofcomplex cultural, social, and economicnegotiations. Our topic explores the role that culture and its products and institutions (such as popular arts and rituals, social and other media, advertising, education, economic trends, and dominant scientific paradigms) play in constructing and/or popularizing different definitions of happiness and how best to pursue it.
Does the most commonly suggested path to happiness really lead to happiness? That is a million-dollar question. Some psychologists argue that, at least in many Western societies, it does not.
Possible topics include (but are not limited to):
– Portrayals of happiness in popular books, movies, comic books, songs, and advertising; on dating apps and how-to websites; at sporting events and holiday celebrations. What definitions of happiness do these portrayals imply? What path to happiness do they propose? Does the proposed path really lead to happiness?
– Portrayals of happiness that promote particular beliefs and values. For example, when characters find happiness if they engage in socially approved behaviors, such as monogamous marriage, hard work, and purchasing a home; when oppressed people are portrayed as happy to justify the oppression; or when a character who
makes a choice that diverges from a group’s dominant norms is depicted as miserable or he or she meets a tragic end.
– Happiness-causing properties of popular genres and products, such as romantic comedies, sitcoms, video games, and meditation apps. Why do these genres and products make us feel good? What definitions of happiness do they imply? What beliefs and values do they embody?
– The science of happiness. What does scientific research tell us about happiness? Do scientific findings correlate with cultural beliefs about (and popular portrayals of) happiness? Why or why not?
– Compare/contrast portrayals of happiness in different historical periods. For example, are the causes of women’s happiness portrayed differently in mainstream romantic comedies today than in the 1950s?
– Compare/contrast beliefs about (portrayals of) happiness in different cultures/countries.
– Compare/contrast portrayals of happiness in different popular genres, such as action/adventure movies, TV dramas, or romance novels. Do these portrayals differ? If so, why?
– The relationship between the prevailing ideas about (portrayals of) happiness and the dominant values, beliefs, and economic conditions.
– The relationship between socioeconomic class, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation and portrayals of happiness.
For additional information and paper ideas, please visit www.happinessandculture.com.
We especially welcome papers from members of ethnic minorities, the LGBTQIA community, and immigrant communities, as well as from the members of non-mainstream, alternative cultures.
We are considering proposals for individual papers and/or complete panels. Sessions are scheduled in 1.5-hour slots, typically with four papers or speakers per standard session. Individual presentations should not exceed 15 minutes. Please submit a 100–150-word abstract for individual papers and/or a 250–300-word abstract for panels. Please include the title of the paper and/or panel. Working professionals, scholars, educators, and graduate students are all encouraged to submit.
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