News & events


Wellbeing in the Global South

30 August 2017
12:30 - 14:00

Poverty and inequality have far-reaching consequences for South Africa’s peoples. Both have long been dominated by material and economic measurements. In contrast, the notion of ‘wellbeing’, has been more widely conceptualised to include the psychosocial and subjective, although largely focussed on what debilitates rather than on what capacitates. In contrast, a study of the multiple dimensions of wellbeing offers an opportunity for a new conversation, which turns the lens to structural challenges and collective strategies for wellbeing. Such a reorientation has the potential to interrogate how wellbeing changes over time, generation, geography and between communities, and may help to design multi-faceted policies and interventions that eradicate poverty and lessen inequality. You are cordially invited to join us as we seek to deepen this conversation through a series of three exploratory wellbeing seminars over the coming months (30 Aug, 18 Sep & 10 Oct 2017).

Date: 30 August 2017     
12h30 – 14h00 
Venues: Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town

Speakers: Dr Alude Mahali (Human and Social Development); Dr Angelina Wilson (Education and Skills Development); and Dr Ingrid Lynch (Human and Social Development).

Chaired by Prof Sharlene Swartz, with an introduction by Dr Heidi Van Rooyen and brief responses from Prof Crain Soudien (CEO), Ms Shireen Motala (Economic Performance and Development), Dr Emmanuel Owusu-Sekyere (Africa Institute of South Africa) and Dr Cyril Adonis (Research Use and Impact Assessment)

This first seminar offers a review of how wellbeing has been conceptualised, over time, and around the world. Beginning with the definition “that to be well means that you have the resources (psychological, social and physical) to meet challenges (psychological, social and physical)”, we argue for a more contextual understanding of wellbeing in Global South contexts. We do so to highlight differences in the factors that shape notions of wellbeing and knowledge production about wellbeing in the Global South and North. Wellbeing in the Global South tends to respond to the immediacy of circumstance through contemporary politics, wobbly economies, and cultural and religious fervour amongst other factors. Subsequently, ‘universal’ definitions of wellbeing, which are grounded in Western theoretical ideologies and notions of a ‘good life’ are somewhat restricted in these contexts, and favour particular readings while undermining or silencing others. This politics of representation and location further exacerbate the multiple obstacles with which people in the Global South contend. To address these, a more nuanced understanding of wellbeing that addresses the challenge of entrenched structural inequalities and draws on the resources of collective solidarity is needed.

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein  as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of DST.

Pretoria : HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail:

Cape Town : HSRC, Merchant House 116-118 Buitengracht Street Cape Town, Cape Town. Contact: Jean Witten, Tel (021) 4668004, Fax (021) 461 0299, or

Durban : 
The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001 , Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or , or Hlengiwe Zulu at e-mail