Happiness and Culture

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Popular Culture Association
contact email: 

Call for Papers

Special Topic: Happiness and Culture

National Conference 

of the Popular Culture Association (PCA) 

Chicago, IL

March 27-30, 2024

(Please note: the deadline has been extended. Proposals are now due by December 15, 2023) 

We are seeking paper proposals for the 2024 PCA conference in Chicago. The papers may focus on any aspect of the relationship between happiness (tentatively understood as subjective well-being) and broadly defined popular culture.

While the desire for happiness is generally considered to be universally human, beliefs and attitudes about happiness seem to vary with changing religious views, economic conditions, historical periods, geographic locations, and other factors. Should you get rich? Start a family? Live a virtuous life? Become a star? Seek enlightenment? Help others? The answer depends on when, where, and whom you ask.

Our topic explores the role that culture and its products and institutions (such as popular arts and rituals, social and other media, advertising, education, and dominant scientific paradigms) play in constructing and/or popularizing different ideas about happiness and how best to pursue it. 


Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

-  Portrayals of happiness in popular books, movies, comic books, songs, and advertising; on dating apps and how-to websites; at sporting events and holiday celebrations. What definitions of happiness do these portrayals imply? What path to happiness do they propose? Does the proposed path really lead to happiness? 

- The relationship between a character’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic class and portrayals of happiness.

- Portrayals of happiness that promote particular beliefs and values. For example, when characters find happiness if they engage in socially approved behaviors, such as monogamous marriage, hard work, and purchasing a home; when oppressed people are portrayed as happy to justify the oppression; or when a character who makes a choice that diverges from a group’s dominant norms is depicted as miserable or meets a tragic end. 

- Happiness-causing properties of popular genres and products, such as romantic comedies, sitcoms, video games, and meditation apps. Why do these genres and products make us feel good?  What definitions of happiness do they imply? What beliefs and values do they embody?

- The science of happiness. What does scientific research tell us about happiness?  Do scientific findings correlate with cultural beliefs about (and popular portrayals of) happiness? Why or why not?

- Compare/contrast portrayals of happiness in different historical periods. For example, are the causes of women’s happiness portrayed differently in mainstream romantic comedies today than in the 1950s?  

- Compare/contrast beliefs about (portrayals of) happiness in different cultures/countries.

- Compare/contrast portrayals of happiness in different popular genres, such as action/adventure movies, TV dramas, or romance novels. Do these portrayals differ? If so, why?

-  The relationship between the prevailing ideas about (portrayals of) happiness and the economic conditions in the country.

-  The relationship between the prevailing ideas about (portrayals of) happiness and the dominant values and beliefs. 

For additional information and paper ideas, please visit www.happinessandculture.com

We especially welcome papers from members of ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, and immigrant communities, as well as from the members of non-mainstream, alternative cultures.

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.  Individual 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.

Area Chairs:

Vida Penezic

Independent Scholar

E-mail:  vida_p@hotmail.com




Nicole Freim

Vice President for Programming and Area Chairs