Architects of happiness: Notes on the mindwork of migration

  • Alexandra Dantzer Institut für Ethnologie, Westfälische-Wilhelms Universität Münster
migration; mindwork; cognitive migration; anthropology of happiness; emotions and migration


The purpose of this paper is to propose an alternative take on the phenomena of migration by discussing the notion of happiness seen as technology of the self that is oriented towards the future and therefore connecting different times and places. This understanding is predicated upon the comprehension that happiness shapes what coheres as a world and that it is always anticipated, rather than actual. I want to argue that migration, instead as simple crossing of the border and settling for “better life”, is an on-going mental process that I refer to as mindwork. Through the proposed framework mobility is understood as a way of achieving happy life. In contrast to previous theories, emotions are not seen as vehicles making the migration process easier or harder, but vice versa. By inverting the process anthropologist can refine their approaches in both fields, anthropology of emotions/happiness and migration studies and gain deeper insight into questions such as: what does it mean to be happy in a specific context, how does happiness enter the lives of people and last but not least why do some people migrate and what do they invest into this process marked with ambiguity?


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How to Cite
Dantzer, Alexandra. 2017. “Architects of Happiness: Notes on the Mindwork of Migration”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 12 (1), 175–193.