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Accepting nominations for Secretary of AAGE!

AAGE is seeking nominations (self-nominations encouraged) for the position of Secretary, effective immediately. If you are interested, please contact the president at, and include your current CV and a short narrative consisting of a statement of experience and reasons for interest in the position. The deadline for nominations will be February 1, 2017. Continue reading

Age Imaginaries in School Ethnography

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Like most social scientists, my approach to methodology is in important ways entangled with personal narrative. My interest in age as a field of social analysis emerged from my early experiences as a secondary school teacher. As a twenty-three year-old trainee, I was barely older than the more senior teenage students in my charge. At the same time, I was easily recognisable to my senior colleagues as member of the same generation as their own children. Training to be a teacher involved my immersion in the uncertain performance of several different identities: professional adult, grown-up in a classroom full of kids, youthful teacher. It was jarring to me to experience simultaneously what seemed like mutually exclusive categories of age. Out on the playground, students (and, sometimes, teachers) engaged in their own complex and ever-shifting negotiation of the age-based rules of engagement in everything from friendship to bullying, dating to disgust, dominance to deference. This led me, several years later and newly formed as an anthropologist of education, to focus explicitly on age in its multiple imaginings as aspect of social life in schooling in the UK.


Approaching age as the primary focus of anthropological analysis presents methodological challenges. Expanding one’s methodological approach to capture multiple, overlapping reckonings of age is perhaps particularly tricky in schools, where order is predicated on the neat portioning of the life course into categories like age groups, year groups, grades, or stages of the life course linked to educational achievement. The difficulty lies in analysing age as an aspect of social experience, while also recognising that age is both an essentialised and an essentially dynamic aspect of social identity. This makes it something of a moving target for the beleaguered anthropologist in the field.


Ironically, researchers have tried all kinds of approaches aimed at mitigating the impact of age, and its concomitant asymmetrical power relations, as a barrier to robust data gathering. Many of these, I would argue, serve to further reify the discreteness of the age-based positionality that a researcher holds relative to younger (or older) informants. Attempts to adopt a ‘least adult’ role in ethnographic research (put crudely, adults acting out childhood with children) may lead children to experience rather peculiar imaginings of childlike adulthood. The sociologist Ronald King (1978) famously hid in a Wendy House (or play house) in order to conduct non-participant observation with children in a classroom, uninterrupted by the presence of adults; and not surprisingly, this method also raised its own problems. Hammersely and Atkinson have pointed out the tension between knowledge, power and age in the role of the school ethnographer, arguing that, in the eyes of participants, chronologically younger researchers may fit more neatly with the role of ignorant but curious observer than do older, and therefore seemingly wiser, greying professors (2007:77). More recently, the ‘new’ sociology of childhood has championed participatory methods as a way to foreground the voice of children and young people in school-based research. While there are significant gains to be made in better representing the self-efficacy of young people as actors in the research process, there are also issues here: it is debatable as to whether ‘child-centred’ research (research that privileges and makes paramount the voices of children) can always be equated with what might be termed ‘childhood-centred’ research (research that questions the terms by which the children and young people in child-centred research are defined). Research about children’s and young people’s lives in this sense must be seen as an important part of the process by which discourses of age are shaped and reproduced, rather than as a practice that exists alongside and apart from it.


In my own research, I have pursued, failed, and persevered with a range of methods for capturing the social complexity of age. Ultimately, I have found some success in a traditional approach to ethnography that embraces the messy, mercurial, dynamic nature of age as a ‘unit of analysis’ and in so doing also attempts to capture the rich and complex ways in which age is given meaning in everyday life. Rather than limiting my analysis to the known taxonomies of age that shape life in school, my challenge was to capture the complex, concurrent, multiple notions of age that served to structure the lives of both teachers and students. As with my own experience as a teacher – of performing at once a version of grown-up, of growing up, and of being little more than a big kid with a beard – these imaginings of age were constructed relationally, idiosyncratically, and in dialogue with dominant discourses of how age ‘ought to be’ experienced. Age, I found, was imagined in a moment-to-moment way that moved beyond existing taxonomies of age, but was also obliged to render itself sensible to them. The methodological hurdle was to capture this complexity. I have attempted to do so through applying the concept of age imaginaries – a ‘warts and all’ approach to recognising how age shapes the ethnographic process as much as it shapes experiences of schooling for children, young people, adults – and everyone in between.


Patrick Alexander is a social anthropologist specialising in education, childhood and youth studies. He is a Senior Lecturer in Education (Anthropology and Sociology) at Oxford Brookes University. In 2014 Patrick was awarded a Fulbright Peabody Scholarship to conduct research as a Visiting Scholar at New York University. This project comprises a two-year comparative ethnographic study exploring aspiration and imagined futures in urban public/state schools in NYC and London. Find out more at the project blog. This project is also connected to Patrick’s research project with Professor Graham Butt exploring aspiration and imagined futures in rural and urban contexts in the UK. Patrick is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, and he is also an active member of the Anthropology of Childhood and Youth Special Interest Group of the American Anthropological Association. Prior to joining Oxford Brookes Patrick was a College Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford (St. Hugh’s College), and a researcher in the Oxford University Department of Education working on a range of projects related to aspiration and social identity. Follow Patrick on twitter here.


Read the AAGE member companion to this post on “Life Course as Method”

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Nominations for the position of Treasurer

The Association for Anthropology & Gerontology is seeking nominations for the position of Treasurer. Self-nominations are encouraged.

The Treasurer is an elected position with a 5 year term of office.

Responsibilities include:

  • maintaining a record of income and expenditures
  • maintaining a record of dues paid
  • preparing an annual report
  • collaborating with the Secretary to maintain organizational paperwork
  • collaborating with the social media coordinator to maintain the membership system.

Prior financial expertise is not required, though organizational skills are a plus but not required.

The outgoing Treasurer will work with the incoming Treasurer in an advisory capacity.

This position is central to the functioning of our organization and is an excellent way for early career members to foster their own professional network.

Nominations are open and should be sent to Rebecca Berman .

Candidates must be members in good standing prior to accepting their nomination. Membership renewal can be completed online here

NEW Member Publication: Transitions and Transformations: Cultural Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course

LynchTransitionsIt began at the 2009 American Anthropological Association meeting in Philadelphia.  There, founding AAGE member Jay Sokolovsky and Publisher Marion Berghahn announced the start of a new book series devoted to the study of aging  and the life course in anthropology. This series became Life Course, Culture and Aging: Global Transformations and we are happy to announce that the first volume in the series has now arrived!

Transitions and Transformations: Cultural Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course, edited by AAGE members Caitrin Lynch and Jason Danely, features contributions from several AAGE members. You or your institution can purchase the book from Berghahn Books here. Even better, there is a 50% discount available with this flyer if you purchase it by July 31, and instructors can have their institution’s bookstore purchase student copies at paperback price! (around $30-35 for students, though the cover price is $95)

For details on how to get this price, contact: Janea V Brachfeld, Marketing and Publicity Assistant, Berghahn Books, Inc.20 Jay Street, Suite 512 | Brooklyn, NY 11201 | Tel: +1 (212) 233-6004 | Fax: +1 (212) 233-6007)

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Download AAQ Volume 33 issues 1-4 (2012)

Anthropology & Aging Quarterly back issues, including all issues from 2012 are available for download now. If you missed a previous issue, just click on any of the covers below to read or download (best viewed with Adobe Reader). The contents of each issue (not including book reviews) is listed for each issue below. For details on the current issue, click here.

AAQ 33(4) DECEMBER 2012

Let Him Hold You: Spiritual and Social Support in a Catholic Convent Infirmary
Anna I. Corwin, University of Californa Los Angeles

A Little to One Side: Caregiving, Spatial Seclusion, and Spiritual Border-Crossing in Frail Old Age among the Tuareg (Kel Tamajaq)
Susan Rasmussen, University of Houston

AAQ33(4)coverPaying Down the Care Deficit: The Health Consequences for Grandmothers Caring for
Grandchildren in a Mexican Migrant Community of Origin
Mary Alice Scott, New Mexico State University

“Who are you to teach us?” Elder Abuse in Kyrgyzstan
Malik Alymkulov (photographs), Eppu Mikkonen-Jeanneret (text), HelpAge International Central Asia

Rethinking the Assessment of Daily “Difficulties”: From Functional Bodies to Functional Communities
Alex Costley, City University of New York

AAQ 33(3) SEPTEMBER 2012 (Special Issue: Aging in East Asia, pt. II)

AAQ33(3)_titleYoung Adults’ Perceptions of Intergenerational Communication: Mongolian and American
Charles W. Choi (George Fox University), Howard Giles (UC Santa Barbara) and Christopher Hajek (University of Texas, San Antonio)

Creating a Community of Resilience: New Meanings of Technologies for Greater Well-Being
in a Depopulated Town
Nanami Suzuki (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan)

The Sense of Social Commitment and Well-being among Older Japanese Women: Focusing on the Reinterpretation and Exhibition of Bridal Noren
Yoko Taniguchi (Senshu University, Japan)

Rethinking Successful Aging from the Perspective of an Aging Japanese Statue of Jizō with Replaceable Heads
Kuniko Fujiwara (Kyoto University, Japan)

AAQ 33(2) JUNE 2012 (Special Issue: Aging in East Asia pt. I)

Ruminations on Studying Late Life in Japan
Susan Orpett Long (John Carroll University)

AAQ33.2coverDemographic Challenges for the 21st Century: Population Ageing and the Immigration
“Problem” in Japan  Ayumi Takenaka (Brandeis University)

A Terminal Patient’s Hopes for Connections Transcending Time
Megumi Kondo (Tenri Health Care University, Japan)

Transitions and Time: Dissonance between Social and Political Aging in South Korea
WonJee Cho (University of Georgia) and Denise C. Lewis (University of Georgia)

AAQ 33(1) FEBRUARY 2012

From the AAGE President   Lori L. Jervis
From the Editor   Jason Danely
New Publications in Anthropological Gerontology  Maria Cattell
Conference report
2009 American Anthropological Association Meeting, New Orleans, LA, Session on Culture, Health and Aging in Native North American Communities
Introduction Wayne Warry
Marie’s Story Of Aging Well: Toward New Perspectives on the Experience Of Aging For Aboriginal Seniors in Canada Syvia Abonyi and Marie Favel, Ile a la Crosse
Mistreatment and the Meaning of Respect for Native Elders Lori L. Jervis and William Sconzert Hall
Forgetting and Forgotten: Dementia in Aboriginal Seniors Kristen Jacklin and Wayne Warry
Understanding Aging: Culture, Cognitive Health and Contemporary Aboriginal People’s Experience with Dementia Jessica Pace
Perspectives on Brain Autopsy, Diabetic Amputation, and End-of-Life Issues among Elderly American Indian
People Neil Henderson, L. Carson Henderson, Ryan Blanton and Steven Gomez
Discussion Robert C. Harman and Wayne Warry

AAQ Volume 34 Issue 1, March 2013


(**click the image on the right to download the full issue)


Mobile Midwesterners: The Impact of Migration on Aging, Health, and Community

Matthew Dalstrom, Rockford College


Social Dance for Successful Aging: Models for Health, Happiness, and Social Inclusion amongst Senior Citizens

Jonathan Skinner, Queen’s University, Belfast


Portfolio:  Winter Fires  (large file)

Mik Godley (portaits), François Matarasso (text)


Book reviews

Aging America and Transportation: Personal Choices and Public Policy (J. Coughlin & L D’Ambrosio)

Universal Design as a Rehabilitation Strategy (J. Sanford)

Siobhan Gregory


The Long Baby Boom: An Optimistic Vision for a Graying Generation (J. Goldsmith)

Susan Ward


Surface Tensions: Surgery, Bodily Boundaries, and the Social Self (L. Manderson)

Amy Paul-Ward

Editor’s Note

Over the years, AAQ has consistently published work that brings new insights and questions to the issue of “successful aging,” always with a strong awareness and acknowledgement of cultural diversity and context. Aging, let alone “successful aging,” cannot be understood separately from the dynamic ecology that engages it, and this ecology increasingly stretches across borders and domains of life. Volume 34 continues to contribute to the ethnographic work on successful aging with two articles examining ways older adults combine leisure, health, and sociality, in the process developing a new forms of agency and identity.

Matthew Dalstrom’s study of seasonal migrants shows how older adult RV communities have developed and sustained themselves in the Lower Rio Grande Valley through a combination of social leisure opportunities and health resources, including access to inexpensive Mexican healthcare services and prescription drugs. Dalstrom’s article shows that as these “snowbirds” become more integrated into the community, their identities and health decisions become increasingly intertwined with the landscape and timing of migration.

Jonathan Skinner (pg. 18) also finds “successful aging” to be a matter of social reshaping of time, space, and the body, although the ecologies being examined his case are the dance floors of Blackpool, Belfast, and Sacramento. Like Dalstrom, Skinner also finds leisure to be linked to both health and sociality, but through his keen attention to dance as a form of embodiment, Skinner also makes important observations about the ways dancers experience a comforting sense of reminiscence and nostalgia through their “in-tense” movements.

The first Portfolio (issue 33.4) received an overwhelmingly positive response from our readers, and the featured portfolio for issue 34.1 presents yet another unique and engaging set of works. I first encountered Artist Mik Godley’s portraits of older artists (pg.30) when I came across François Matarasso’s book Winter Fires: Art and Agency in Old AgeIn the accompanying text, Mik and François describe the development of their collaborative project, making it clear that the art is not simply widow-dressing for this book, but part of a cohesive visual ethnography on creativity, meaning, and the life course.

As Editor-in-Chief of AAQ, I would like to again welcome Jonathan Skinner as Associate Editor and Joann Kovacich as the new Book Reviews Editor beginning with issue 2. I am very excited to be working with both of you.

Finally, thank-you to Sherri Briller for her many years of dedication and service as book reviews editor for AAQ. My first AAQ book review (and academic publication) was edited by Sherri, and so from personal experience, I can attest that her impact on this journal and AAGE will not be forgotten!

Jason Danely

Call for AAQ submissions for special issue “The Aging Body”

Deadline for submissions:      June 1, 2013    

This issue will focus on the aging body not only in terms of biophysical processes of maturation, but also in terms of the aging body’s cultural elaboration, its articulations with other “bodies,” such as Lock and Scheper-Hughes’ formulation of the social and political “body,” and the representation and manipulation of the “old body” through images, technologies, rituals, policies, movements and health practices.  We are interested not only in articles that challenge notions of the older body as merely frail or decrepit, but also articles that push conceptual and methodological boundaries of “the body” in its social and cultural contexts. As with many accepted theories in anthropology, theories of the body and embodiment are often framed with an implicit body in mind, and while this implicit body has been usefully critiqued from the perspective of gender, queer,and disability studies, anthropologists studying old age and aging are still developing their own distinct voice in this conversation. This issue of AAQ will draw out the diversity of approaches to the aging body,the challenges they bring to anthropological theories of the body, and the unique contributions of the anthropology of aging to this field.

Topics might include:

  • The ways the aging body is (mis)recognized through demographic and statistical discourse
  • The use of the aging body as a form of resistance to the hegemony of youth
  • Aging bodies as erotic bodies
  • Aging bodies as a challenge to notions of biopolitics
  • Depictions of the aging body vs. other bodies in popular media and/or artistic works
  • Cosmetics and pharmaceutical re-shaping of the aging body
  • Caring for the body as caring for the self
  • Bodily adornment and beautification
  • Painand the body in old age
  • Discourses and institutions that deindividuate or depersonalize the body
  • Body, memory, and aging in place
  • Gender and the aging body

Please contact Jason Danely if you are interested in submitting an article for this issue:

ASA Graduate Student Award Deadline: 11/30

Submit your research paper to the American Society on Aging to be considered for the graduate student research award! The winner will gain the recognition of peers and thousands of professionals in the field. The graduate student research award is given to spur academic and clinical interest in the field of aging and rewards the best unpublished graduate research paper on a completed project relevant to aging and applicable to practice. Membership in ASA is not a requirement, but is a consideration.

Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate-degree program or have completed their studies less than one year before submission, and be sponsored by a faculty member. The winner will receive a $500 honorarium, an opportunity to present their paper at the 2013 Aging in America conference (March 12-16 in Chicago), complimentary one-year student ASA membership and registration for the Aging in America conference.

The deadline to submit research papers has been extended to November 30. Call 415-974-9600 if you have any questions, or visit:

AAA Report from Jay Sokolovsky

San Francisco is always a big draw and this meeting had over 6000 participants and many sessions and papers on aging.  The AAA Interest Group and AAGE collaboratively organized two special events: An Interlocutor Event on Senior Activism with Anthropologist Roger Sanjek and Berkeley activist Harvey Smith being interviewed by Jay Sokolovsky and Athena Mclean. The room was full and the questions from the audience were lively and provocative.

At the Interlocutor Event with Athena, Roger and Harvey

At the Interlocutor Event with Athena, Roger and Harvey

We also had a panel discussion about the future of Aging and the Life Course Research and Teaching centered about presentation of short papers by young scholars Casey Golomski and Daena Funahashi. To a standing room only crowd, their work and other topics were discussed by Maria Vesperi ( Frontiers of Teaching); Samantha Solimeo:  (Working Outside of the Academy) and Bjarke  Oxlund (Globalizing Aging and Life Course Research).

Panelists Bjarke  Oxlund, Maria Vesperi with paper presenters Casey Golomski and Daena Funahashi

Panelists Bjarke Oxlund, Maria Vesperi with paper presenters Casey Golomski and Daena Funahashi

There was discussion during this event and after at the formal business meeting of continuing to promote and highlight the work of young scholars at future meetings.

A larger report about the business meeting and future plans will come at a future date.

Warm regards from Florida.

New Berghahn Book Series: Aging, Culture and the Life Course: Global Transformations

Seeking manuscript proposals for publication in the 2013-2015 period. This can include both monographs and edited volumes.

Transitions and Transformations book coverThe first volume, TRANSITIONS AND TRANSFORMATIONS: Cultural Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course, Edited by Caitrin Lynch & Jason Danely is now in production and other volumes in various stages of development include: The Digital Life Course (edited); monographs on Dementia in India, Globalization of the Life Course in China and Resolving Generational Conflict in East Africa.

Focus of Book Series:
The consequences of global aging will influence most areas of 21st century life: the cultural construction of the life cycle, systems of care, generational exchange and kinship, the makeup of households and community, symbolic representations of midlife, elderhood and old age, and attitudes toward health, disability and life’s end. The volumes in this new series will address these issues from the perspective of the life course and mid/late adulthood set in a cross-cultural framework. It will explore the place of older adults in the changing cultural spaces, life scripts and elderscapes emerging within the context of a rapidly globalizing planet.

Potential authors should carefully look at Berghahn’s guide for authors and contact Jay Sokolovsky at