Interdisciplinary Centre for Global South Studies

International Forum 2020: "Wellbeing and Subjectivities across the Global South" / Futures under Construction

Please Note

Due to Corona-Virus Pandemia the international forum 2020 will be held completely online. To receive detailed information and login data to the sessions please register at the end of this page.

Futures under Construction: Wellbeing and Subjectivity across the Global South

In view of the multiple current global crisis scenarios, the question arises of how futures in the Global South can be shaped in such a way that it is oriented towards the wellbeing of people and forms of self-determined life. This is why the categories of "wellbeing" and “subjectivity” are currently at the centre of a global cultural and political field of conflict in which the possibilities for shaping the future in the Global South are being negotiated, since, according to Appadurai, the capacity to aspire a good life is very unevenly distributed. 
“Wellbeing” plays a key role in the transnational arena of development policies and is, for example, foregrounded by institutions like the WHO or the UN. While “wellbeing” certainly gives coherence to a set of aspirations for the future of mankind, the concept transports certain notions of subjectivity, agency and articulation that demand critical scrutiny. Unsurprisingly, many prominent commentators and social movements from the South reject implied notions of modernization and development that ignore specific cultural and social conditions and local knowledge. The ensuing cultural and political debates encompass institutional politics, social activism, media modelling and cultural imaginaries including also the sphere of everyday practice.

No less necessary is a debate about “wellbeing” on the epistemological level: where social sciences tend to link the concept to quantifiable categories – as for example in the definition of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – alternative strands of theory criticise the fundamental orientation of such approaches towards the ideal of growth and individualistic progress. Such positions – often articulated from the South – refer to autochthonous concepts such as “Buen Vivir” and “Sumak Kawsay” in Latin America, “Swaraj” in India, “Ubuntu” in Africa or “Country” in Indigenous Australia that are based on a sustainable lifestyle oriented towards community and nature. The general question of compatibility, commensurability or parallelism of these approaches to well-being with global campaigns towards “sustainable development” or a “green economy” is intensively discussed and often denied. Cognate discussions are conducted for example in the globally oriented "International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services" (IPBES) where “wellbeing” plays an explicit and central role, and is understood within a pluralistic framework of “Western” and “non-Western” values. The “degrowth” movement and associated themes of "décroissance et joie de vivre", shows that similar and connected debates are also gaining a foothold in the Global North.

The Forum seeks to debate various models and concepts of “wellbeing” across the fields of health, education, work, economic prosperity, community participation, cultural creation, spirituality, ethics and sustainability and to question their significance for aspirations for a (better) future. We will discuss how relationships between different models are negotiated in the local, regional, national and global interdependencies of the Global South, in the fields mentioned above, and what effects the enforcement or dominance of specific models of “wellbeing” might have on social, cultural and political and religious practices.

Phases of the International Forum

The International Forum 2020 will consist of three phases:

1. Introductury phase (June 2020): In this phase we want to chart the field on “Wellbeing”/ ”Ill-being”, “Subjectivity” and the relevance for the “Futures under Construction”. Through a set of Interviews we aim to collect and visualize the diversity of thoughts, perspectives and approaches on the topics of the Forum in the entire network. The recordings of the Interviews will be uploaded on this Page in the second half of June.

2. Discussion phase (July 2020): In this second phase we want to enter in debate on various thematic strings arousing from inside the network. During complete July 2020 we will schedule different conference panels, round tables and similar formats. Sessions will be realized mainly through Zoom. All registered particpants of the Forum will receive a weekly email with all upcoming sessions of the week and the corresponding login data.

3. In-depth phase (September to November 2020): In this third phase we want to open the possibility to deepen the discussions initiated in the prior phase and impulse network cooperation in joint teaching or research follow-up formats. In connection to an upcoming “PhD-Student Certificate on Global South Studies”, we are going to offer some postgraduate Online-Courses on different central topics of Global South Studies as well as the Forums thematical strings.


Welcome Address - Convenors of the International Forum 2020

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see text of Welcome Address

Welcome to this year’s virtual forum on  “Well-Being and Subjectivities across the Global South”. I’m Russ West-Pavlov, and together with my colleagues Gabi Alex, Susanne Goumegou and Sebastian Thies, we would like to formally open the digital proceedings with a few brief words about our scholarly interest in issues of wellbeing at the current fraught juncture of our contemporary moment.   

This year’s International Research Forum is coordinated by the DAAD / BMBF Thematic Network ”Futures under Construction” and hosted by the Tübingen Interdisciplinary Centre of Global South Studies. The forum invites scholars and PhD students to participate in a dialogue on Well-Being, a concept that plays a crucial role in current debates about the future orientation of the human race.  

Together with our colleagues from our partner  institutions in Johannesburg, Niterói /Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Melbourne, New Delhi and Dakar, we agreed on this agenda at University of Tübingen’s 2019 Summer School on Global South Studies as it seems to be a perfect fit for an interdisciplinary, international South/North dialogue. We want to take a critical look at a notion of wellbeing as an overarching goal that on the one hand is extremely difficult to question and dismiss, as it is made up of a combination of two notions - well and being - that are intrinsically valuable, and on the other hand seems highly problematic as it does not seem to reflect the real existing conditions of deep precarity that characterize many of the social and cultural settings in the Global South. 

Little did we know that the COVID Pandemic would change the face of the planet and impede our plans to gather in person in Tübingen. The Pandemic has put issues of Health on the forefront of public discourses in both North and South and stresses the importance to explore notions of well-being related to social distancing and health related social justice that were unforeseen by us when we started the planning. At the same time, it is clear that this  crisis is not only a health crisis, it coincides with the worsening of the debt crisis and the economic imbalance that has been an issue in the Global South for decades. It will have overwhelming repercussions on public health and social protection systems and the deeper and more lasting dismantling of the educational and science sector. These issues are compounded, as we speak, by a global explosion of protest around chronic issues of persisting discrimination and racist violence, and of course by ongoing climate crisis which has only temporarily been obscured by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these acute global issues intersects with the others are the heartlands of contemporary wellbeing or its opposite, illbeing. 

While well-being is a key concept in the WHO understanding of health – defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (1946) and we try to address these issues with a strong participation by experts of medical anthropology and public health, the relevance of the term for development issues goes well beyond health and includes basically every area of human life. The influential OECD quality of life index encompasses, for example, health, labor, housing, income, education, safety, social support network, civic engagement, and work life balance, as well as the subjective notion of life satisfaction. In this sense, we are open to contributions from a wide range of humanities, social sciences, and life sciences.

It is highly debatable if this top down approach which ultimately intends to provide guidance for governance policies can claim any universal validity. From the South’s point of view, these technocratic approaches are problematic. This applies especially to the claim that an incommensurable value such as well-being can be empirically measurable when being broken down and segmented on a global scale of comparison, but also in particular to the fact that these concepts of well-being contain semantically a notion of Western individual subjectivity that is held up to Southern societies as a target that they have not reached yet or have only implemented deficiently. Global asymmetries lead to the fact that the term well-being particularly illustrates the inadequacies of modern development promises. This makes the term a hot spot of the South’s theory construction.

The particular appeal of this concept of well-being however is that it cannot be reduced to the discourses of global governance, as we all have notions of what would make us happy or feel good, what might be good or desirable in life, how we should act to attain this goal, or how life should be in order to allow humanity to prosper on this planet. Under the current conditions, it’s possible that we are gradually developing a novel global consciousness of the things that menace well-being – variously scaled at the personal, communal or planetary. Many have to live in conditions of precariousness. Under these conditions, navigational skills for overcoming the hardships and contingencies of life are vital to survival. 

We are confronted, on a daily basis, with images of ill-being, of unrest, violence, poverty, racial discrimination and social exclusion - all culminating in human suffering. Those images chosen by hegemonic regimes of medial representation rule the public sphere. Other apparently less spectacular images remain hidden from the public gaze while  human suffering continues unabated. 

There is an undeniably strong appeal to people both in the North and in the South in the idea that wellbeing can be purchased and  consumed. But such notions convert our lives in goods to be consumed. And increasingly, however, the myth of endless growth supposedly conferred by globalized capitalism loses its sheen as the climate crisis, the Covid Pandemic and global recession take a toll on the planetary consciousness. 

In recent decades, thinkers from the South have proposed looking at autochthonous or indigenous concepts such as the good life or buen-vivir or Ubuntu as they promise         alternative understandings more apt to accomplish well-being in terms of communal or ecological sustainability. Such concepts are intertwined with forms of communal participation, technologies of indigenous agriculture, conservation, or architecture, and practices of health care or economics, that concretely generate quality of life. Many of the traditions have survived in the interstices of colonial modernization and development and are now being regarded with renewed interest as climate change, for instance, threatens material livelihoods on a massive scale around the globe. 

As Global South studies take a critical position on the hegemonic geopolitics of knowledge, our main concern is to understand the social and discursive production of well-being in the complex global fabric in which societies in the Southern hemisphere are embedded. We also want to shed light on the global presence of marginalisation and subalternity (i.e. the “South” in the “North”). More broadly, we would like to focus on the following questions:
What various images and imaginations of wellbeing can be found around the globe and what differentiates or conversely unites them? 

How are they related to the cultural, social and political context out of which they arise? How do we confront the fact that often stereotypical notions of wellbeing and illbeing are embedded in an enduring colonial mindset? How can we as a group of global scholars contribute to critical and transformative interventions in current debates about the decolonization of such images? 

Which discourses and models of wellbeing circulate in and between local, regional and international contexts? How do they travel and who transmits or curates them? 

Which practices of applied and embodied wellbeing are intertwined with the respective imaginaries and discourses in specific contexts? How do they relate to and intervene in multiple experiences of illbeing - violence, poverty, neglect and precarity? Which forms of subjectivity - individual, communal, transpecies, transgenerational - do they give rise to or enable? What models of agency can be recognized in these incarnations of subject- or personhood?

Please join us as we address these questions in this year’s virtual forum, digitally debating issues that concern us all in these turbulent times.  



Wellbeing and subjectivities in times of Covid-19: thinking with the virus

Round Table with: 
Dilip Menon
Sunita Reddy
Fernando Resende
Gabi Alex

06 July / 16:00 - 18:00 (CEST)

watch recording

Individuals, Communities and Wellbeing

Round Table with
Molly Brown
Irma Eloff
Tharina Guse
Niq Mhlongo

Moderation Russ West-Pavlov

09 July / 12:00 - 14:00 (CEST) 

watch recording

Writing the Home

Subjectivities of Being in the Global South

Conference Panel with: 
Amina ElHalawani
Tsangue Douanla
Timo Stösser
Diego Amaral

Moderation: Gero Bauer

16 July / 14:00 - 16:00 (CEST)

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Discomforting Territories: Images, Narratives, and Objects of the Global South

Round Table with: 
Renata Gonçalves
Roberto Robalinho
Fernando Resende
Sebastian Thies

20 July / 15:00 - 17:00 (CEST) / 10:00 am - 12:00 pm (Brazil)

watch recording

Colonial Legacies throughout the Global South
South-South Relations between Africa and Brazil

Conference Panel with:

Saliou Dione
Danai Mupotsa
Beatriz Polivanov
Beatriz Medeiros
Deborah Santos

Mod: Roberto Robalinho

22 July / 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm (CEST)

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Diseños para el Pluriverso: interdependencia radical, autonomía, y la creación de mundos

Mesa de discusión con: 
Arturo Escobar

Esteban Morera
Nadja Lobensteiner
Sebastian Thies

23 Julio / 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm (CEST)

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Individu, communauté et « bien-être » dans le roman africain contemporain

Panel with:
Aminata Samb
Louis Nana 

Discussant: Fatoumata Traoré & Ibrahima Ndiaye
Chair: Prof. Susanne Goumegou

27 juillet / 12h00 – 14h00 (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal), 14h00 – 16h00 (Allemagne)

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Feminist struggles in the Global South

Body, Politics and Wellbeing 

Conference Panel with: 
Lieli Loures
Nibedita Roy
Wairimũ Murĩithi
Angelica Fonseca

Moderation: Carina Stickel

Tuesday 28 July / 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm (CEST)

Aesthetics and Marginality in the Global South

Round Table with:
Gustavo Coelho
Cesar Rebolledo
Paula Gil Larruscahim
Janaína Damasceno

30 July / 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm (CEST)

watch recording

Wellbeing & Beyond
Perspectives for future cooperations

Closing Session of the International Forum 2020 

Friday 31 July
4:00 - 6:00 pm (Germany & South Africa)
7:30 - 9:30 pm (India)
2:00 - 4:00 pm (Senegal)
11:00 am - 1:00 pm (Brasil)
9:00 - 11:00 am (Mexico)

Activismo y música por la reivindicación de los pueblos indígenas de América Latina

Mesa Redonda del Proyecto Sunqullay con:
Sylvia Falcón
Taki Amaru
Sara Curruchich
Renata Flores 

Mod: Alica Kroll y Julia Spieler

7. July / 18:00 – 20:00 (CEST)

watch recording

Pagers, Zines and Dating Apps

Queer Community Media and Health Communication in China

Hongwei Bao, in conversation with Zairong Xiang and Gero Bauer

9 July / 14:00–16:00 (CEST)

watch recording

City and space in the Global South

Urban space, community and Wellbeing

Conference Panel with:
Erika Alcantar
Birgit Hoinle
Anele Ganta

Moderation: Georgina Cebey

17 July / 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm (CEST)

watch recordings

Development models and Ecology in the Global South

Consumption, Nature, Relations - Which Wellbeing are we heading for?

Conference Panel with:
Marlie Holtzhausen
Lena Schlegel
Stefan Ortiz-Przychodzka
Manuela Arruda Galindo

Moderation: Anthony Obute

21 July / 01:00 pm - 03:00 pm (CEST)

watch recording

The role of public universities in the pandemia scenario in Brazil
Interview with Rector Prof. Dr. Antônio Cláudio Nóbrega (Universidade Federal Fluminense)

Mediator: Fernando Resende
Interviewers: Heidrun Sturm and Fabiano Tonaco

23  July / 4:00 pm (Germany) / 11:00 am (Brazil)

Watch recording

Afriques futures

Une études comparée de textes narratifs du Futurisme Italien et de l’ ‘Afro-devenirs’

Conference Panel with:
Louis Nana
Thea Santangelo

Moderation: Bacary Sarr

24 July / 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm (CEST)

Watch recording

Postcolonial Subjectivities in the Global South

Identity, Violence and Wellbeing

Conference Panel with:
Federica Gonzales Luna
Priscillia M. Manjoh
Fernando Wirtz

Moderation: Nadja Lobensteiner

Monday 27 July, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm (CEST)

En el murmullo del viento (Bolivia, 2018)
Proyección y mesa redonda con la directora Nina Wara Carrasco

Nadja Lobensteiner
David Wood
Alba Vásquez Miranda

Mod: Georgina Cebey

28 July / 4:00 pm (CEST)

watch recording

Designs for the Pluriverse
Discussion with Arturo Escobar

Russ West-Pavlov
Karin Amos
Ayola Akim Adegnika
Thomas Potthast
Karin Polit
Birgit Hoinle

Esteban Morera, Nadja Lobensteiner, Sebastian Thies

30 July / 4pm - 6 pm (CEST)

Wellbeing and Futurity

Round Table with: 
Sarah Nuttall
Abdoumaliq Simone

Véronique Tadjo
Danai Mupotsa
Ernst Wolff

Moderation: Russ West-Pavlov

08 July / 14:00 - 16:00 (CEST)

watch recording

Borders and the Production of Ill-Being. A Global Conversation

Organized by: Research Team “Diversity & Migration”

Panel with:
Richard Ballard
Javier Ruiz-Tagle
Marta Stojić Mitrović

Discussant: Sarover Zaidi
Chair: Boris Nieswand

09 July / 17:00 - 18:30 (Germany & South Africa) / 20:30-22:00 (India) /11:00 - 12:30 (Chile)

Communitarian approaches in the Global South

Communal Life, Buen Vivir, Ubuntu, Ghambira and Wellbeing

Conference Panel with:
Robert Kramm
Femi Eromosele
Dolon Sakar
Adrian Ravzan Sandru

Moderation: Birgit Hoinle

20 July / 1:00pm - 3:00 pm (CEST)

Fake News, Social Media and Subjectivities: Effects on Society and Politics in Brazil

Conference Panel with: 
Jean Wyllys
Fernanda Bruno

Moderation: Beatriz Polivanov

21 July / 15:00 - 17:00 (CEST) / 10:00 am to 12:00 pm (Brazil)

Watch Video Inputs:
Jean Wyllys
Fernanda Bruno

Buen Vivir, aproximaciones descoloniales y nuevas formas de educación superior

Taller con:
Birgit Hoinle
Rocío Rueda Ortiz
Juliana Flórez

23 Julio / 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm (CEST)

Les lieux imaginaires du «bien-être»

Panel with:
Prof. Cyprien Bodo 
Carina Stickel 
Audrey Da Rocha 

Discussant: Natacha Ngoran Ahoussi & Thea Santangelo
Chair: Prof. Bacary Sarr

27 juillet / 09h00 – 11h00 (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal), 11h00 – 13h00 (Allemagne)

Music and Wellbeing in the Global South:
exploring the politics of music and sound in daily life

Panel with:  
Oladele Ayorinde
Christina Richter-Ibáñez
Felipe Trotta

27 July / 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm (CEST)

watch recoding of inputs:

Felipe Trotta

Media and Politics in the Global South

Wellbeing and Subjectivity in Visual Cultures, Archives, Press and Television

Conference Panel with: 
Sarojini Lewis
Claudia Ferrer
Fabio Agra
Ariane Diniz Holzbach

Moderation: Maria José Prieto

29 July / 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm (CEST)

Epistemes of Global South

Education, Academia and Wellbeing

Conference Panel with:
Thaiane Oliveira
Oscar Eybers
Tom Krippner

Moderation: Judith Riepe

30 July / 6:00pm - 8:00 pm (CEST)

watch recording

The health for all agenda
Challenges to Primary Care in Brazil and Germany

Roundtable with:

Roland Koch
Heidrun Sturm
Christine Preiser
Pedro Gomes Almeida de Souza
Fabiano Tonaco Borges