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Member Highlight: Chitra Nair

First, list your current professional title. Second, describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies. 

I am working as Assistant Professor of Sociology from 2015 onwards at K.N.M. Government College, Trivandrum which is affiliated under University of Kerala. I completed my Ph. D. in Sociology from Loyola College of Social Sciences, University of Kerala in 2017. My research was on Geriatric care of Elderly women. Taking Health as the pivotal issue, my research investigated the impact of individual care, informal care and formal care in Kerala Society with special reference to rural area in determining quality of life and subjective well-being of elderly women.

I have been associated with International and National Research Networks and professional bodies like International Sociological Association, Indian Sociological Society, International Academic Forum and Kerala Sociological Society. Collaborating with Directorate of Collegiate Education, I convened National Seminar on ‘Social Interventions for Quality care in Later Life’ in January 2018.

As a member of the FLAIR (Fostering Linkages in Academic Innovation and Research) Program under Department of Collegiate Education in Kerala, I have received training in prestigious institutions in India like Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore (ISEC) in 2018, OPTIMA program in 2017 etc. I am an active mentor in the Scholar Support Program and Walk With the Scholar Program implemented under New Initiative Schemes by Collegiate Education Department, Kerala. I am also collaborating as resource person for Local Self Governments and NGOs working for elderly care in Kerala.

I have also presented research papers in the ISA World Sociology Congress at Toronto, Canada in July 2018 and The Asian Conference on Ageing and Gerontology in Tokyo in May 2019. I have attended the Innsbruck Conference, 2017 and Granada Conference, 2019 convened by ISQOLS. Granada Conference became all the more special for me as I received one of the Educational Grant Awarded by ISQOLS for early career researchers from developing countries.

What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?

Before starting my career as a teacher, I started my government service in 2009 as a staff in the Industrial Training Department, later got appointments as Auditor in the State Audit Department and Assistant in the General Administration Department of Kerala Government Secretariat. But the passion for teaching and research that remained ignited in my mind, eventually helped me to secure the position of Assistant Professor of Sociology.

Working in different Government Departments gave me the opportunity to understand common people, their aspirations and needs. It helped me a lot in grasping the complex realities and contrasts in life. It was my ambition to be responsibly involved in improving the lives of my fellow beings that brought me into the research on quality of life, happiness and well-being.

As a teacher and a researcher, I have taken every opportunity that comes to me as a way to consider about positive interventions. As the Convenor of Interdisciplinary Research Committee and Women’s Study Unit in our college, we have started many programs to link the young generation with the community. ‘Spare a Minute, Spread a Smile Program’ is one such initiative to create empathy among our college students towards the elderly in our neighbourhood. We have also started a collective ‘Sound of Dreams’ for the differently abled students in our college. The collective brings special students, their parents and general students together, give them support and encourage to give voice to the dreams of the differently abled.

What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?

Hailing form a developing country, I have often felt that we have more to talk about addressing the basic questions of life like that of the need to improve social situations, living conditions, work conditions, marginalised sections and so on. More research is needed on comparative studies between the nations and within the nations. Collaborative research can bring together fragmented knowledge sets and solutions to address these problems. 

How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?

My first experience with ISQOLS started at the Innsbruck Conference in 2017, which was also my first International Conference in a foreign country.  From that conference itself I felt the genuineness of the organisation. My apprehensions about how the ISQOLS community will receive an early career researcher like me was soon faded by the warmth and enthusiasm with which I was received at University of Innsbruck. I was highly motivated, passionate and attached to Happiness and QOL Studies. Since then, ISQOLS conference is the most awaited one every year. Participating in ISQOLS conference is like refreshing yourself and recharging yourself with new knowledge, sharing your thoughts and anxieties, keeping engaged in intellectual exchanges and getting surrounded by lot of humble humane persons working for a better society for all. I have felt that ISQOLS beholds the very mission of the organisation from simple things like responding to your queries to organising responsible conferences and supporting you at every step of your engagement with the community. From the 2017 conference to the 2019 conference ISQOLS has taken sincere efforts to satisfy the expectations of the participants and even beyond. Feedbacks are actively taken care of unlike others.

ISQOLS is always unique with respect to the multidisciplinary nature of its themes and participants. I cherish the chance that I received to have a conversation with eminent scholars like Sir Ruut Veenhoven, Sir Richard Layard and Prof. Joseph Sirgy.

After the Granada conference, I have received the opportunity to collaborate in the International Research Network of Hope Barometer with Dr. Andreas Krafft from University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Dr T.S. Sunil from University of Texas is yet another collaboration that I received from the networking through ISQOLS. I have also utilised the opportunities to enrich my academic knowledge by attending the Webinars conducted by ISQOLS. The forum of ISQOLS members is yet another elegant initiative by the organisers. Especially for me, as an early career researcher from a developing country like INDIA, these initiatives have helped immensely in coming into contact with the academicians around the world. Being part of ISQOLS is a lifelong experience whereby we receive new perspectives, values and ethics not only for our academic progress but also for our development as a human being.

Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community.

I would like to share my experience with ISQOLS at the 2019 Granada Conference as it remains close to my heart. When I reached the registration desk at the Faculty of Politics and Sociology on 4th September 2019, the first person who extended a warm welcome was Mr. Jorge Guardiola. To my astonishment, he greeted me ‘Namaste’ in the Indian way holding his hands together. I was so happy to see his commitment as a Chair of the Local Organising Committee to keep the essence of the theme – Happiness in a Multicultural World. The bamboo cup provided with the conference kit endorsed care taken in such small efforts by the organisers to go eco-friendly. Mr. Guardiola also explained about the Centre for Peace Studies at University of Granada and shared details about the studies done on the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation - India. During the welcome reception I met Mr. Ming Chang Tsai - ISQOLS President, Jill Johnson, Talita Greyling, made many new friends and strengthened old relations. 

Health walk to Aula Magna for the keynote lectures was yet another experience. During the walk, I listened to Dr. Liere Iriarte about Linking Happiness Metrics to SDGs. Keynote lectures were soulful and inspiring especially those of Stefano Bartolini who explained why it is important to concentrate on wellbeing rather than monetary aspects while assessing development and happiness; and Michael Marmot who gracefully discussed from his expert knowledge about social justice and health equity. Parallel sessions were enriching due to diversity of subthemes.

Liz Eckermann endowed track on Gender and Quality of Life was the first parallel session I attended. Learning QOL from the gender dimension was relevant with new inputs in terms of both qualitative and quantitative studies. Liz’s demise was a personal loss to me as I missed the opportunity to meet the pioneer who worked for a gendered approach to both QOL and wellbeing. While having a conversation with John Eckermann after the session, he remembered how passionately Liz wrote and discussed about Women in Kerala.

The following day, I had my presentation in the afternoon session chaired by Dr. Soo Tan from Singapore. My presentation was an assessment of positive and negative influences of spirituality in shaping self and social identities of aged women in India. Results from the field work showed that spirituality influences the socio cultural constructions of age identities both positively and negatively. Positive identity constructions acts as a refuge enhancing wellbeing while negative identity constructions prove to be risk leading to ‘Reverse Metamorphosis’ decreasing wellbeing of aged women.

Another act of care for the presenters that we witnessed in our session also comes to my mind at this point of time. One of the presenters in our session was not able to attend the conference due to VISA problems. Jill Johnson and the local organisers took all possible efforts to make it possible for her to present the topic through Skype. It was an example how far the organisers could support a presenter and take care to complete their responsibilities.

In the evening, we walked to the “Carmen de los Chapiteles” where conference dinner was arranged. Situated at the foot of Alhambra, the restaurant provided a mesmerising ambience with Flamingo Dance and Music. It was stunningly beautiful to enjoy the view of the town below. We had a wonderful time talking about our respective fields, projects and hopes for collaborations.

Parallel sessions on the final day of the conference provided new understandings and measures of progress, historical challenges to improve wellbeing among Europeans, Happiness Metrics and SDGs etc.

I had some quality time with the delegates who also received Educational Grant Award from ISQOLS. We took a photo together with the President of ISQOLS. My wish to meet Sir Ruut Veenhoven remains to be fulfilled.


Dr. Chitra Nair can be reached at chitras2009@gmail.com

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