EU funding for research into the commercialisation of ‘wellness’ in Southeast Asia

ERC Consolidator grant for Max Planck Group Leader Megha Amrith

November 27, 2023

Dr. Megha Amrith, Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity has been awarded a prestigious Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council. Her research into the commercialisation of well-being as ‘wellness’ in Southeast Asia will be funded for five years with 2 million euros.

In times of perceived uncertainty, people are travelling more than ever in search of experiences that promote their wellbeing. In Southeast Asia, they are seeking out yoga, meditation and spa retreats, as well as detoxifying diets and anti-ageing therapies. Despite the massive size of this industry, very little is known about the impacts of the wellness economy.

Research focus of Megha Amrith’s group

Megha Amrith’s Ageing in a Time of Mobility Research Group has been studying the interconnections between ageing populations and global migration, two key phenomena in the twenty-first century, for the past five years. The research group has addressed how translocal connections and mobilities uphold or reshape particular understandings and expectations of ageing, how intergenerational practices of care circulate across borders, and how older people navigate socio-cultural, religious and linguistic differences and boundaries in increasingly diverse and unequal societies.


The ERC project “WELL-ASIA” will enable Amrith and her team to research the commercialisation of well-being as ‘wellness’ in Southeast Asia, which has become a global crossroads in the wellness economy.   Wellness services depend on the labour of others who often earn little and whose work is poorly protected, including migrant workers. Her multi-sited ethnographic study will address the question: What social, economic and moral transformations does the pursuit of wellness generate and which new forms of inequality are associated with it?

                  “I am delighted that the European Research Council has provided me with this exciting opportunity to study transformative effects of this emergent phenomenon with an interdisciplinary team. WELL-ASIA will develop novel theoretical and empirical insights in the field of transnational wellbeing. The research findings that we generate from Southeast Asia will enable broader global comparisons with other regions of the world where similar dynamics may be unfolding’.

Megha Amrith            


Dr. Megha Amrith

Megha Amrith’s research focuses on transnational mobilities, care, ageing and inequalities. Megha Amrith obtained a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in 2012 under a Gates Cambridge scholarship. Prior to joining the Max Planck Society, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for Metropolitan Studies at the University of São Paulo (2012-2013) and a research fellowship at the United Nations University Institute for Globalization, Culture and Mobility, Barcelona (2014 – 2017). She is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Global Networks.

The ERC Consolidator Grant

The ERC has been awarding Consolidator Grants since 2013. The target group are scientists who can demonstrate seven to twelve years of excellent research after completing their doctorate. The funding is intended to support them in independently building a team or consolidating their scientific career. This year, 308 projects out of 2130 were selected for funding. A total of 627 million euros will be distributed.

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