The industrial exploitation of natural resources has invariably generated migration of people from village to settlement in pursuit of a better life. Life on company settlements, whether attached to the industries of mining, plantation, or timber raises key questions about well-being and happiness of the residents there. While the immediate aims might be to acquire a house, furniture and to possess the accoutrements of urban life, what is not so clear is how one comes to own a good life? Companies may plan settlements, housing and services to their workers, yet often the settlement grows more organically-through networks of aspirant people seeking specific forms of happiness in their lives, such as rich husbands, housing, education, health care, electricity and running water. Life on settlements can be known by the specific experience of people on them, where they benefit from the working life and its specific services, and yet also find their return to home villages complex if not impossible. From classical to modern philosophy it is often assumed that a good life is won through work; that corruptions of working life prevent the wellbeing of homo faber, entailing the assumption of specific relations to the natural world, to each other, and to a trajectory of social economic development. This panel focuses on wellbeing and the good life as it is circumscribed in ethnographic description of work and settlement life. We invite research into aspirations that lead people to migrate in order to work, the experience of happiness and discontent at work, and most importantly how the experience of life on the work place settlements bears witness to the possibility that the good life is accessed through working.
Living side-by-side: discourses on the meaning of space and belonging for fly-in-fly-out and residential workers in a remote mining town in Australia
The 'good life' at work: 'energy' and 'skills' as competing parameters of wellbeing in contemporary China