Work, Health, Music: The enduring Rusyn model of a good life amid changing socioeconomic contexts of progress

K. M. Cantin


Rusyns in Eastern and Central Europe have experience with two predominant models of “progress”: the Soviet-style communist and the neoliberal.  Proponents of each system promised to better the lives of all but did not take into account what “better” meant to local populations, including Rusyns.  Increasingly, European governmental and nongovernmental organizations are redefining notions of progress and development to accord with values of sustainability and a capability approach (CA) to well-being.  Giovanola (2005) and Robeyns (2005) have argued that scholars of the CA need to better develop concepts of “personhood” and “human flourishing”, and to better explain the importance of social group membership and norms to living a valued life.  The emerging anthropological focus on well-being, emphasizing culturally specific definitions of what happiness and a good life mean, can provide these conceptualizations.  As a case in point, I use freelist and interview data obtained from residents in the Prešov Region of Slovakia and the Zakarpattia Oblast of Ukraine along with Rusyn cultural narratives drawn from poems, folktales, plays, songs, interviews, and speeches to identify prevalent models of “personhood” and “a good life”. I discuss how these narratives intersect and diverge with discourses of happiness and progress along with the implications for Rusyns' ability to flourish.



Rusyns; well-being; cultural models; Capability Approach; progress

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