3rd HELAAS Young Scholar Symposium

Sharing Critical Testimonies of Wellness in Times of Crisis
February 2022

Call for Papers

Various interpretations of what constitutes health and the normal functioning of human beings have been around even before the Hippocratic “break from divine notions of health” (Green). The most prevalent ones, like Christopher Boorse’s famous theory of health, define health via negativa as the absence of disease and sub/dysfunction. However, an alternative, positive view of health, partially powered by interdisciplinary investigations of conditions in which people function for sustained periods of time under other than “normal circumstances” (Boorse 7–8), has claimed the spotlight in the past few decades. Moreover, a critical turning point along the millenia-long trajectory of health discourse in the West, the lack of value neutrality in dominant definitions of health, and of the practices these definitions underpin and legitimize, has been emphasized in recent years. On the broad tracks of the same development, the notion of wellness has now come to supplement that of health, strengthening a more holistic conception of the latter.

With its roots in the ancient civilizations of the world in the East and the West, wellness was reintroduced in scholarship and common parlance as well as embraced by health professionals and by large segments of the public in the late twentieth century. Contrary to the notions of health or happiness, wellness refers not to a fixed or definitive state of being but to a lifelong, critical pursuit. Wellness is a process, not a goal; it implies reflectivity, (self)consciousness, and choice; and it entails the integration of at least seven distinct yet interrelated dimensions: physical, mental, emotional, social, occupational, spiritual, environmental (Anspaugh et al. 2). Although the so-called “wellness paradigm” is not without its critics (particularly for the emphasis it places on individual responsibility), the idea of wellness is a useful lens through which to examine the human experience in times of crisis. On the one hand, crises such as wars, famines, pandemics, or other catastrophic events, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks, upset dominant definitions of normalcy and throw into question the operative values of established health systems. On the other hand, they often furnish occasion for manifestations of inspiring resilience and proof of the import and timeless resonance of the continuous search for a sense of well-being and life-affirming meaning. In times of crisis, there are people whose “constant and deliberate effort to stay healthy” (Hoeger and Hoeger), work through adversity, and achieve optimal biopsychosocial functioning, granted the unfavorable circumstances, serve to remind us why life is ultimately worth it.

Some of the most powerful narratives of people opting and reaching for wellness in unlikely contexts have survived in the form of testimony; here understood as “an account about the past on the basis of first-hand experience and the epistemic authority such experience conveys” (Mahr and Csibra). To paraphrase George Yúdice, testimonial expression is wielded by a communicative and self-conscious agent, “moved to narrate by the urgency of a situation” (qtd. in Samet 117). Distinctly social in nature and intent, testimonies offer tools with which to make sense of that situation. Nowadays, they involve increasingly multimodal and multi/transmedial strategies to address, record, represent, and make meaning out of the crisis the agent faces; while they are also more widely shared than ever, thus bridging social distances of all sorts. The 3rd Young Scholar Symposium of the Hellenic Association for American Studies seeks to integrate the ongoing health crisis in a long and productive history of responses to the many crises the modern world has faced. We invite contributions that focus on how testimonial expression, whether by Americans about domestic or world crises, or by non-Americans about American crises or American engagement in world crises, has equipped the pursuit of wellness. We are interested in projects that discuss testimonies of the foregoing kind in diverse media, artforms, and modes, and we welcome interdisciplinary ones and those that place emphasis on the critical modalities that these testimonies either themselves incorporate or elicit.

Proposals may focus on one (or more) of the following topics and beyond them:

  • Accounts of healing, (self)care, and recovery in literary, visual, and scenic arts and/or (new) media
  • Testimonies of wellness in traditional and new journal-ism
  • Critical reflections on confinement and (im)mobility
  • The interplay of writership and readership in (self-)isolation
  • Pop and e-culture empowering and empowered by wellness
  • Sharing testimonies of the pandemic in physical and digital contexts
  • Narrativizing and (re)negotiating the role of health and medicine in the search of well-being
  • Developing alternative therapies via testimonial expression
  • The historical role of wellness in American studies
  • Expressions of environmental (un)wellness in ecocriticism
  • Gender, race, ethnicity, and other markers of identity in testimonies of wellness and the struggle for social justice
  • Education, policy-making, and other institutional practices as agents of wellness
  • The contested trend of wellness: advertising, marketing, trading on wellness in American culture(s)

Contributions may consist of individual or collaborative (15-minute) papers, (3-speaker) panels, roundtables, workshops, praxis sessions, provocations, lecture performances, or even actual performances and installations. Our primary aim is to demonstrate the plurality, diversity, and breadth of young scholar research within the field of American Studies, besides offering a unique networking opportunity to early career scholars. With that in mind, we strongly encourage formats that transgress disciplinary boundaries and challenge distinctions between different areas of knowledge and experience. We are looking forward to welcoming contributors inclined to think out of/rethink the “academic box”; those whose work resides at the interface between art and science, epistemology, and practice, and/or offers bold readings of wellness in American culture(s).

In the same spirit, and in order to help young scholars navigate the world of academia, the programme of the Symposium will accommodate opportunities to discover more about practical aspects of scholarly and professional development. Participants will also be invited to submit full-text articles (5,000–7,000 words) for possible inclusion after being blind reviewed to a special issue of the interdisciplinary journal of the Hellenic Association for American Studies, Ex-centric Narratives: Journal of Anglophone Literature, Culture and Media (e-ISSN: 2585-3538).

Important note: The exact date of the symposium will be decided based on how the situation develops.

Please, send your proposal by 31 August 2021, to youngscholars@enl.auth.gr. Each proposal submission should include an abstract of 250-300 words and a 100-word biographical note of the contributor(s). For further information, please, direct your emails to Dr. Theodora Tsimpouki, President of HELAAS (tsimpouki@enl.uoa.gr) or Dr. Aikaterini Delikonstantinidou, Young Scholar Representative (aikaterini@enl.auth.gr).

Works Cited

Anspaugh, David, Michael Hamrick, and Frank Rosato. Wellness: Concepts and Applications. 6th ed., McGraw Hill, 2004.

Boorse. Christopher. “A Rebuttal on Health.” What Is Disease?, edited by James M. Humber and Robert M. Almeder, Humana Press, pp. 1–134.

Campos, David. Jump Start Health! Practical Ideas to Promote Wellness in Kids of all Ages. Teachers College P, 2011.

Green, Lawrence W. “Definition of Health.” Oxford Bibliographies, 2017, doi: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756797-0132.

Hoeger, Werner, and Sharon Hoeger. Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness: A Personal Program. 9th ed., Thomson Higher Education Institute of Medicine, 2007.

Mahr, Johannes B., and Gergely Csibra. “Witnessing, Remembering, and Testifying: Why the Past Is Special for Human Beings.” Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 15, no. 2, 2020, pp. 428–43, doi:10.1177/1745691619879167.

Samet, Robert. Populism and the Press in Venezuela. U of Chicago P, 2019.

Zeiler, Kristin. “Transgressive Technologies in Reproductive Medicine: Do they Call for a Revision of Notions of Health?” Dimensions of Health and Health Promotion, edited by Lennart Nordenfelt and Per-Erik Liss, Rodopi, 2003, pp. 133–46.