Wellbeing and the Common Good

Click here to download the 2023 Conference Program.

May 18 to 20, 2023

Northwestern University
Evanston, IL

Conference Chair: John Millhauser
Department of Sociology & Anthropology, North Carolina State University

Conference Host: Hirokazu Miyazaki
Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Call for Papers

In our third year of a global pandemic, we are stretched thin, suffering touches us all, and our wells of empathy seem to be running dry. And yet, despite this suffering many of us are also paying closer attention to our own well-being and to the well-being of those around us. In this spirit of exploration and cautious hope, the theme of the 2023 Society for Economic Anthropology meeting will be “Well-Being and the Common Good.” The theme is inspired by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, whose capabilities approach to economics helped expand the study of wealth and inequality to non-economic measures such as health, education, civil rights, environmental safety, political freedom, and political representation. In so doing, they drew attention to the gap between well-being (what a person has achieved) and advantage (what a person has the real opportunity to achieve) and how material wealth can neither be the sole cause of nor the only solution to this gap.

In this light, the 2023 Society for Economic Anthropology meeting will explore capabilities, opportunities, and hope in the practice of economic anthropology. Drawing in part from a growing “anthropology of the good” (coined by Joel Robbins), we seek papers that challenge us to rethink the economy as one part of a total experience aimed at making life worthwhile. The anthropology of the good asks us to reflect on the values we hold as economic anthropologists and how these values lead us to investigate (or set aside) topics like well-being or the common good. Bringing these topics to the foreground of economic research can help us understand where we have fallen short and where we might succeed in efforts to study, reveal, highlight, and perhaps help people to achieve well-being and the common good.

Suggested paper topics

Economic anthropologist work across all of the sub-disciplines and specializations of anthropology. We welcome and encourage papers that showcase the range of anthropological efforts, including the work of archaeologists, linguistic anthropologists, biological anthropologists, medical anthropologists, and applied anthropologists among others.

  • How are well-being and the common good defined, measured, and compared within and across cultures, economies, time, and space?
  • How do different kinds of evidence (archaeological, biological, linguistic, etc…) affect our ability to study well-being and the common good?
  • How are ideas related to well-being, such as care, the good life, quality of life, livelihood, and standards of living, defined, measured, and contested?
  • How do hope and aspiration shape present experiences and imagined futures?
  • How are notions of well-being and the common good related to identities and intersectionality in different cultural and historical contexts?
  • What happens when one group imposes their ideas of well-being or the common good on another group (from the welfare state to global development)?
  • How do more individualized (well-being) and more collective (common good) ideas and efforts relate to and affect one another? How do caring economies come into play?
  • How is well-being variable across the human lifecycle, from infancy to old age?
  • How do ideas regarding the temporality of well-being and the common good (imagining them in the future) influence decision making and behavior?
  • How does dependency, or intervention, among different groups (within and among nations) play out in terms of well-being and the common good?
  • How does a focus on well-being reveal and address disparities of wealth, health, etc.?
  • How does economic anthropological research impact the well-being of others?
  • In what ways do notions of making a living, work-life balance, forms of living, etc. encode or mystify ideas of well-being? What projects of future well-being do the enable?
  • What sorts of well-being have been of particular concern to anthropologists? How might they reflect the anthropological milieu, framed by ethical orientations, available research methodologies, and the audiences to whom we speak?
  • What narratives of well-being do qualitative and quantitative ways of investigating and comparing favor? How do particular methodologies reveal hidden suffering? How do they reveal hidden thriving or things that are going right?
  • How has the pandemic shaped/changed our notions of well-being and common good?

Registration and Abstract Submission

Abstract submission will be open from December 2, 2022 through January 17, 2023. Please use this google form to submit your abstract.

You may choose to submit your abstract for a paper, a poster, or both. Papers will receive 20-minute presentation slots and will be considered for inclusion in the 2024 special issue of Economic Anthropology dedicated to the conference theme. Posters will receive space in an in person or virtual poster session. If your abstract is not selected for a presentation slot, it will be considered for the poster sessions.

We aim to review all abstracts and return decisions by January 31, 2023 and to create a program by February 15, 2023.

The registration portal for the spring meeting is now open on the AAA website. Registration rates are:

Standard: $100 (+$25 for Saturday banquet)
Un/Underemployed: $70 (+$20 for Saturday banquet)
Student: $40 (+$15 for Saturday banquet)

Standard: $40
Un/Underemployed: $30
Student: $20

If you have any questions, please contact the meeting chair, John Millhauser (millhauser@ncsu.edu).

Travel and Accommodations


We are not reserving a room block for the conference because there are many hotel and Air BnB options in Evanston and Chicago.

The two hotels closest to the conference are:

The Graduate Hotel, 1625 Hinman Ave.
Singles from $213/night, doubles from $248/night

The Orrington Hotel, 1710 Orrington Ave.

Singles from $177/night, doubles from $203/night

Air Travel

The closest airport to Evanston, IL is Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD). There are a number of ways to reach Evanston from O’Hare:

    1. Taxi
      American Taxi | 847-255-9600
      From the airport, call 847-255-9600 as soon as you deplane. The company will text you with your taxi number. (Please only take that taxi.) Taxis are waiting in a nearby lot and will proceed to the terminal to meet you for pick-up. Please ask for the flat rate to Evanston.
    1. Rideshare
      If you prefer to use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, please look for signs for the designated “Rideshare Pick-up” zone for your terminal.
  1. Public Transit
    Chicago Transit Authority
    O’Hare to Northwestern’s Evanston campus ~ 1.5 hours: Blue Line to Purple LineMetra from Chicago
    Take the Union Pacific North (UP-N) line to Davis/Evanston. It’s a 10 minute walk northeast to campus.CTA (the “El”) from Chicago
    Take the Blue Line to the Purple Line north in the direction of Linden. Change trains at the Jefferson Park Transit Center. Exit Purple Line at at Davis. It’s a 10 minute walk northeast to campus.Additional information is available on the Chicago Transit Authority web site, at www.transitchicago.com