Panel organization: “The politics of categorizing ‘health’: Which ‘healthy’ lives do we study and produce?”

  • Smolka, M. (Speaker)
  • Dorit Biermann - Teuscher (Speaker)
  • Lotte Thissen (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation / Performance / SpeechesTalk or presentation - at conferenceAcademic


“Truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good [...].” William James’ pragmatist understanding of truth postulates the intimate relationship between the categories we use to determine what the world is and how we intervene to create the world we want. Interventions that promote what many consider as essential to good life – health – presuppose a definition of ‘health’. Who is ‘healthy’ and who is ‘at risk of disease’? Is ‘health’ possible at the age of 65+? Are employees with low socioeconomic status automatically ‘at risk’? How do we assess a ‘healthy lifestyle’ and ‘unhealthy’ habits or conditions? Does ‘healthy living’ imply ‘living well’? How to live with or without being driven by norms about health and how to perform the body, such as ‘healthy eating’ and ‘exercising’ – both body and mind?
Ethnographers study how these categories are produced in hospitals, workplaces, clinical research, nursing homes, to name but a few examples. Some aim at contributing to the practices under study. Unpacking how health is enacted locally helps articulate how practices may be evaluated and improved. We invite contributors to share experiences of unfolding and/or contributing to the production of categories and practices of ‘health’ in their ethnographies. The panel calls for reflections on impacts of how ethnographers and actors we follow enact certain categories of ‘health’ rather than others. We hope for discussing which ‘healthy’ lives we want to help bring into being in research, intervention, and description.
Period4 Mar 2021
Event titleChronic Living Conference: quality, vitality and health in the 21st century – an international conference
Event typeConference
LocationCopenhagen, DenmarkShow on map