Wellbeing in Buganda: the pursuit of a good life in two Ugandan villages
In this thesis, I offer a complex exploration of positive motivation and life evaluation in two adjacent villages in the Buganda kingdom of Central Uganda. Focusing primarily on the lives of five individuals, I examine the tensions and inconsistencies that arise in the day-to-day pursuit of a good life in these villages and argue that, while individual lives may differ, people everywhere face similar concerns in their desire to live well. Through these individuals, but drawing also on wider ethnographic insights, I explore five core themes, with a trajectory broadly moving from more material to more transcendental concerns. These are: making a living, aspiration, gratification deferral, the source of good things, and the importance of connectedness. Running through the thesis is the assertion that wellbeing is a relational and moral project as people’s efforts to live well are inextricably intertwined. A key underlying question is ‘How can we live well in a socially acceptable way?’ This research contributes to the fledgling field of the anthropology of happiness and wellbeing as well as regional scholarship on, for example, development, livelihoods, aspirations, and ‘modernity’. In addition, it speaks to interdisciplinary wellbeing research and I argue that the nuance and contextualisation offered by anthropological and ethnographic study can both augment and challenge the primarily quantitative research from other disciplines. Furthermore, I make a particular claim for the value of biographical approaches to the study of wellbeing.
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