Self and Well-Being in Sub-Saharan Africa: Communal Identity, Value Boundaries and Religious Belief as Foundations of Happiness

PI: Rengin Bahar Firat ()

Co-Investigators: Jennie Burnet; Todd Whitmore, University of Notre Dame; Roberto Foa, Harvard University

By combining qualitative interviews with quantitative surveys, this project seeks to answer the question of how and why some people in Sub-Saharan Africa have higher levels of subjective well-being and happiness despite similarly low economic conditions and heightened cultural and political conflict.

This project focuses on the connections between core value orientations and subjective well-being in Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Sudan, Sub-Saharan nations with different levels of happiness. Our main objectives include a) identifying the relationship between communitarian self, values and subjective well-being with a comprehensive set of questions going beyond standard quality of life indices and b) assessing inter and intra- cultural variability in the linkages between values and well-being. We seek to attain these objectives by combining insights from sociology, anthropology, religious studies, theology and political sciences to develop and administer an inter-disciplinary empirical strategy that first conducts qualitative interviews in Sierra Leone, Sudan, and South Sudan and then uses this ethnographic information to shape an innovative quantitative survey questionnaire on self and well-being in these societies. With this novel approach that cuts across disciplines, our research will shed new light on existing puzzles in well-being research.