Call for Papers

Special Topic: Happiness and Culture

Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association

2020 Joint National Conference

April 15-18, 2020

Philadelphia, PA

We are soliciting paper proposals for the special topic, Happiness and Culture, to be presented at the 2020 Joint Conference of the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association in Philadelphia. The proposals should focus on the relationship between happiness (as a universal human emotion) and culture.

This is a hot new field of interdisciplinary research (it appears among the conference Subject Areas for the first time), so please forgive the length of this solicitation. 

In the US, the pursuit of happiness is one of the three unalienable rights; the right to this pursuit is one of the truths that we consider to be “self-evident.”  But, what arewe pursuing with the expectation of finding happiness?  Why pursue that and not something else? Are we on the right track? Where do our ideas about happiness come from? Do different cultures choose different paths to happiness? What role do cultural values play in these choices? What role do these choices play in the culture? Is popular culture popular because it is making us happy? If so, how? How is happiness portrayed in popular media? How do these portrayals vary with changing economic prosperity, political ideology, etc.? Why? Do media disseminate certain dominant images of happiness? Are these portrayals misleading or helpful? Research has shown that leisure is important for happiness. How is this correlated with our lifestyles? How are the portrayals of happiness different in different historical periods and/or in different cultures? Why? How do these portrayals reflect/affect the cultures in which they occur? Why is there a particular portrayal at a particular time?  Whose interests does it serve? Are certain minority groups stereotyped with respect to happiness? What happens when the promised expectations of happiness are not met? Does every group in a society subscribe to the same view of happiness? These are just some of the many questions about the relationship between happiness and culture that a paper might address.

More generally, the papers and presentations might explore (but are not limited to) attitudes about happiness, portrayals of happiness, happiness practices, the definitions of happiness, and the uses of happiness.  They might trace, describe, analyze, and examine the connections and lines of intersection between happiness and other phenomena that make up our cultural landscape, such as education, business, popular arts, popular media, popular rituals, cultural values, different ideologies, various sciences and humanities, gender, ethnicity, economic class, globalization, etc. They might aim to understand the impact that our desire for happiness has on our culture or the impact that our cultural, social, and economic forces have on what we (are encouraged to?) pursue as happiness. They might evaluate the happiness-making properties of popular culture genres and products, such as romantic comedies, sitcoms, video games, dating apps, meditation apps, and consider this in the context of the mainstream, alternative, minority, specialized, professional, and other cultures. And so on.

Possible papers and/or presentations might also include (but are not limited to)demonstrations of popular happiness-training strategies, critical analyses of the uses of happiness as a carrot to elicit desirable behaviors, such as compliance, hard work, and purchasing choices, and portrayals (by the dominant/mainstream culture) of happiness in various minority groups, sometimes (often?) to justify oppression.

While the participants may choose any definition of happiness as the basis of their explorations, for those unsure where to begin, we suggest using as a starting point (to build on, to modify, or to refute) the science-based understanding of happiness, developed by psychologists. In this view, a person is happy when he/she experiences positive emotions as well as perceives his/her life as meaningful. (For example, Sonja Lyubomirsky defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”)

For additional information about this exciting new field, the people involved in it, as well as a wide range of ideas for papers and presentations please visit the companion website to this Call for Papers: For more information about the conference or to submit a proposal please visit http://www.pcaaca.orgor

We especially welcome papers from members of ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, and immigrant communities, as well as members of non-mainstream, alternative cultures, about their communities’ uses/definitions/practices of happiness and the ways their experiences of happiness have been portrayed (stereotyped?) by the mainstream culture.

We are considering proposals for individual papers and/or complete panels.  Sessions are scheduled in 1.5 hour slots, typically with four papers or speakers per standard session.  Presentations should not exceed 15 minutes.  Please submit a 100-150 word abstract for individual papers and/or a 250-300 word abstract for panels. Please include the title of the paper and/or panel. Working professionals, scholars, educators, and graduate students are all encouraged to submit.

All submissions must be uploaded through the PCA website:


August 1, 2019          Submission Page Opens

October 1, 2019         Early Bird Presenter Registration Begins

November 24 New Deadline for Paper Proposals

(November 1, 2019  was the original deadline for paper proposals but it has been extended to November 24.)

December 1, 2019     Early Bird Presenter Registration ENDS

January 1, 2020         Regular Presenter Registration ENDS

January 2, 2020         Late Presenter Registration BEGINS

January 20, 2020       Preliminary Schedule Available

February 1, 2020       Registration for Presenters ENDS -you are dropped from      the program if not registered


Area Chairs:

David Silverman

Kansas Wesleyan University 


Vida Penezic

Independent Scholar

Los Angeles


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