Arlena Liggins

Affiliate Member of the Research Group Medical Anthropology

Curriculum Vitae

Arlena Siobhan Liggins was a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland. She has started her PhD on a scholarship granted by ‘The Graduate School of Social Sciences (G3S) of Basel University’ within the Medical Anthropology Research Group (MARG), lead by Prof. Brigit Obrist. Arlena Liggins studied cultural science (BA) at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany, Cultural Anthropology (MA) and International Health (MSc) both at Uppsala University in Sweden.

For her Master Thesis in Cultural Anthropology Arlena conducted a three-months qualitative research in Uganda collecting illness narratives of diabetes patients funded by the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), Uppsala and the the ‘Svenska Sällskapet för Antropologi och Geografi’ (SSAG). In her Master Thesis in International Health she focused on the experiences of diabetes patients in Uganda from a more general perspective.
As one focus of the upcoming research she wants to trace the question what it means for Ugandans to lead a ‘good life’? Not until the last decades has the study of well-being emerged to a central concern of scientific endeavor. In times of modernity many people are today leading alleged ‘modern’ lives of physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and high levels of psychological stress, nevertheless considering these features as a part of being well. Whereas especially moral philosophy has extensively dealt with conceptions of well-being often used synonymously for happiness since centuries, anthropology has hardly dealt with matters of well- being, even though this unquestionably is an empirical concern of many anthropologists. What does it mean to be well? It lies in human nature to strive for well-being and to do the best one can to achieve it, and hitherto well-being has its own mystery making it nearly impossible to define it. The state of well-being appears as something unachievable, a never-ending story in a “world of want”. It is the nature of well-being she wants to explore, contrasting this concept against the backdrop of chronic diseases.

Focus in Research

  • Research interests:  Chronic Diseases, non-communicable diseases, well-being, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, uncertainty, STS 

  • Regional focus: East Africa (mostly Uganda)
  • Field research experience: Uganda (September-December 2012), Uganda-Rwanda (April-June 2014)

Research Projects

  • 2014- approx. 2017: “Matters of well-being in times of chronic diseases” (working title of the PhD project)
  • 2013-2014: A disease for life – Experiences of diabetic patients in two hospitals of Uganda. A qualitative study (MSc)
  • 2011-2013: “They say it has no cure” – illness narratives of diabetes patients in Uganda (MA)