Maryam Jafri, Depression (detail) 2017, Wood, silicone feet, acupuncture needles, glass cupping equipment, photograph, paper, egg carton, 29.5 x 14.5 x 24.25

Join Michaela Haffner, Rachel O'Neill, and Lexington Davis for a panel on the historical roots of wellness culture from the late nineteenth century into the present day. In her talk, Michaela will explore the visual origins of wellness in the United States in the nineteenth century. While the term “wellness” only emerged as common parlance in the 1970s, its holistic and natural health ideology emerged in the “health and pleasure” resorts and sanitaria of the late nineteenth century. This talk will explore the ways in which art not only constructed beliefs of natural health, but racialized wellness as an exclusive practice that endures today. In this talk Rachel will discuss her research on the emergence of “wellness” as a novel cultural formation and new commercial development in the UK, one that is intimately bound up with the aspirational economies of social media. Exploring both the glamorous trappings of wellness media and the more mundane entanglements these generate in women’s everyday lives, she will consider how the rise of wellness coincides—temporally but also ideologically—with the decline of welfare.

Michaela Haffner is a PhD candidate in art history at Yale University where she studies U.S. art and material culture. Her dissertation examines the visual culture of natural health movements at the turn of the 20th century, a project which has been supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Huntington Library & Museum, and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Dr. Rachel O’Neill is an Assistant Professor in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. Her research centers questions of subjectivity, culture, and inequality, pursued through a feminist lens. Her work has been published in leading academic journals and received coverage in outlets such as The Guardian, Vice and The Quietus.

Lexington Davis is an AHRC-funded PhD candidate at the University of St. Andrews, where her research explores feminist art and domestic labor politics. She has previously held curatorial positions at the New Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her work has been supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, the Paul Mellon Centre, and the Netherlands Institute in Athens.