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Qualities of Life Working Group

waste and drought by na chainkua reindorf
Waste & Drought, cotton and 3D paint on Plexiglas, 24" x 30" by Na Chainkua Reindorf, MFA '17, founding member of the Qualities of Life Working Group

The Qualities of Life Working Group operates at the intersection of medicine, art, ethnography, and contemporary theory. We are interested in the qualities, sensations, dynamics, tensions, and cadences that mark life and structure our knowledge of it. These questions take on a particular relevance in practical discussions when assessments of the quality of life shape decisions about who should receive health care, what sorts of care is appropriate, and how health care systems might triage patients when overwhelmed by material and financial demands.

The formal concept of Quality of Life (QOL) serves as an index that has brought issues like health care into economic evaluations. It is something the field of healthcare itself is increasingly trying to capture. Our working group is interested in opening up these medical and economic discussions on the quality of life and the forms of (e)valuation that are involved in it.

What are the sensuous qualities and feelings that come to orient life and living and become meaningful in evaluations of good or healthy or effective lives? How do the sensuous qualities and feelings most salient to these evaluations differ across places and times? How do particular regimes of knowledge and practice work at the level of the sensuous to support specific political and economic configurations?

As a group, we bring our collective attention to international, gendered, and racial differences that shape these issues. We also bring an interest in alternative forms of healing in South Asia and East Africa that open up the range of qualities of which we might speak, that expand the forms of valuation that are most prominent, and that challenge any easy assumptions about what constitutes life. Our collaboration holds a keen awareness of the spaces in which healing happens and we are eager not only to think together about these spaces but also to explore ways to collaboratively activate them in efforts to stimulate public conversations about the qualities of life. We work in the United States, India, and Tanzania. Our hope is that we will bring to fruition at least one collaborative venture in each of these locales.


Stacey A. Langwick (associate professor, anthropology)


Yagna Nag Chowdhuri (graduate student, South Asian studies), Rebekah Ciribassi (graduate student, anthropology), Margot Lystra (instructor, landscape architecture), Liam Martin (undergraduate student, art and architecture), Jeanne M. Moseley (director, Global Health Program), Lucinda Ramberg (associate professor, anthropology)