Category Archives: journal

How Anthropology & Aging became Open-Access: some thoughts on transitions and trajectories

Screenshot 2014-09-02 09.56.19.pngLink to the new Anthropology & Aging website here

On days like today, I will most likely spend several hours at the computer, mostly reading. When I have a moment away from other work, I will open some links to articles that google scholar sent me, or scroll through the updates on blogs I follow, and spend twenty minutes here, an hour there, filling up with ideas and images that often find their way into my lectures or a presentations.

If you are like me, you expect to be able to access important news, thoughtful essays, and even high-quality academic articles instantly and effortlessly as your curiosity leads you. I expect my students to be able to do the same when they are writing papers or considering research projects (sometimes we do this together as we brainstorm). With my academic affiliation I can access a lot more than most people, but even then, I always manage to find dead-ends, blocked by some pesky paywall. In these cases I will usually do what my students do, take down the citation for another time, and wander back to the free stuff.

And why not? Lately the free stuff, not only in anthropology, but in aging studies as well, has been really top notch. It may have once been the case that digital journals lacked the clout and the credentials to be taken seriously, but open-access sites like Anthropology of This Century and HAU: Journal of Contemporary Ethnography not only have contributors and editorial boards that include some of the most prominent anthropologists in the world, but they have embraced the potential of new media, creating attractive, interactive formats with unique content. (I have included links to examples of open-access digital journals in anthropology and aging studies below) The scholarly digital publishing wave is exciting, and as a small, non-profit run, niche publication like our journal, it allows us to get our work out into the world and have a greater impact on both the field of aging studies, and on the lives of older adults.
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Call for Submissions for the new Anthropology & Aging

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http;//anthro-age.pitt.edu/
anthro-age@mail.pitt.edu

Anthropology & Aging published by the Association for Anthropology & Gerontology (AAGE) in cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh, is now an open-access peer-reviewed scholarly journal. We welcome submissions on a rolling basis through the journal website, where detailed author information is available.
Issues are published twice per year (May and November). Original articles suitable for scholarly peer review (5,000-9,000 words) should broaden our understanding of sociocultural and/or biophysical aspects of aging using anthropological perspectives, methodologies, or theoretical frameworks. Submissions from non-anthropologists, students, or international scholars are welcome as long as the submission clearly deals with both anthropology and aging in a substantial way. We also encourage submissions of Research Reports, Policy and News Reviews, or Commentaries (2,000-5,000 words) which are evaluated by our editorial advisory board. Form and style is flexible. We welcome group submissions (3-5 articles/reports) on a focused topic or region, as well as proposals for special issues (8+ articles/reports).
Anthropology & Aging is intended as a resource for anthropologists interested in issues related to aging (including intergenerational relationships, caregiving, population aging, human rights, and global health) and aging studies scholars interested in anthropology. Submissions that employ cross-disciplinary approaches and novel methodological strategies are particularly encouraged, but standard anthropological styles are also acceptable.
Please visit our website for more information: http;//anthro-age.pitt.edu/
We look forward to your submissions.

Sincerely,
Jason Danely
Phillip Y. Kao
Co-Editors of Anthropology & Aging

Review: Collaborative Autoethnography (Chang, Heewon, Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, and Kathy-Ann C. Hernandez)

Chang,  Heewon, Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, and Kathy-Ann C. Hernandez. Collaborative Autoethnography. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press.  2013. ISBN 978-1-59874-556-6  200 pp. Price $34.95 (paper)

Heewon Chang, Faith Wambura Ngunjiri, and Kathy-Ann Hernandez have collaborated to produce  Collaborative Autoethnography.  Coll-aborative Autoethnography (CAE) is a further elaboration of Autoethnography (AE). Researchers in both approaches see themselves as both the subject/informant of the research and the analyst of that research.  In CAE, the researcher/subject is part of a team that collects and analyzes her/his data.    This book is a review of past research in terms of methodology and a handbook on how to do collaborative research.

The authors place CAE and AE in terms of an evolving field of theoretical interest.  Researchers themselves have personal and professional lives that are situated in their institutions and culture(s).  AE (as well as CAE) allows the researcher/subject to turn a lens (p.22—their word) on her/his own life as well as the larger society.

AE has addressed abortions, pregnancy, death and grief, and sexual abuse, among other topics (pp.19-20.)  The book’s authors agree with other students of AE that while rich in data, more can be gained by a more collaborative approach.  Collaborative approaches allow for more depth as well as personal and community building.  At minimum, a collaboration can be two people—the researcher/subject and another researcher. They propose an ideal team of at least one more member.

CAE can focus on traditional academic concerns, with a single or several research focuses.  It can also extend to performance art, wherein “…autoethnographies are written as theater scripts… [or as] a series of poetry, or performance narratives… (p.51.)”  In terms of AAGE’s mission on aging, I can see many places where CAE can be used. A few “personal” examples come to mind.  People are doing “Story” projects in many communities.  Often located in museums or libraries, a person tells her/his story.  Teams of collaborators, whether professionals and/or non-professionals trained by professionals, can engage a person or several people to tell their life stories in greater depth.  Several years ago I taught a discussion class on “Generations” through our local junior college’s Older Adults Program. The discussion group was based in a nursing home.  It could have easily been based in a senior center as well.  The participants  reviewed their lives, providing wonderful information on their similarities and differences according to all our “standard” kinds of foci—gender, class, education, region, job, religion, sexual preference, and so on.  The data were rich and could easily be used to add to histories of different periods. Moreover, the data were enriched by each participant’s interaction with the others when they questioned or reaffirmed or remembered something or some events another had not.   Hopefully, we can find issues worthy of study that we had not expected as well.

As for academic collaborative teams, the authors contend that they  work best when the participants are located where they can have continued social interaction.  They are located in the same city.  They meet for coffee, lunch, dinner, and other events and they meet over time.  In terms of proposed methodologies, they suggest different models of collaboration, which can offer differing degrees of complexity. It would be interesting to see what kinds of data and studies can be gained by on-line collaboration or a mixture of the two.  As noted above, it may be possible to add that to the repertoire of CAE for older people that they can do by themselves or with some help.

As they lay out their models for research and their places in theory, they note that many of the studies involve women in the academy, immigrant experiences, and people of color.  They situate themselves in all the above ways and especially in terms of motherhood (pp.185-6.)  The authors build upon both feminist theory and feminist critique and the whole field of qualitative research.  The ends they seek say it all: “It [CAE] is a transforming process that allows scholars to build community, advance scholarship, engage in social activism, and become empowered in their social context (p.148.)  What makes this book  even more interesting is that as the authors lay out their formulations, they share relevant anecdotes about their own lives.

The authors also address some of the dilemmas this kind of fieldwork entails.  One always has to ask:  How much should I reveal about myself?  How much should I reveal about others—especially without their consent?  How should I present my data?  They recognize that collaboration helps reveal issues that are not always apparent to the subject (p.28.)  Lastly, they see the research process as supportive for the person studied as she experiences or re-experiences trauma or a difficult situation (p.30.)

I have several suggestions for the book.  First, I think the title should have been Collaborative Autoethnography: A Handbook. That makes it clearer as to what the book is about.  Second, the authors should tie their research into other related research about the psychology and anthropology of fieldwork experiences, (cf. Davies and Spencer  2010.)  Third, in terms of my self-disclosure about my comments, I am an anthropologist as well as a licensed psychologist. I would have liked to see much more of a discussion of the handling of trauma and denial, among other psychological issues (e.g., p.29.)  In sum, I would strongly recommend this book for those unfamiliar with this emerging field and who want to do this kind of valuable research.

References
Davies, James and Dimitrina Spencer. 2010 Emotions in the Field: The Psychology and Anthropology of fieldwork Experience. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Richard Zimmer   
Sonoma State University

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Heterotopia and Illness: Older women and Hypertension in a Brazilian Favela- Annette Leibing

Heterotopia and Illness: Older women and Hypertension in a Brazilian Favela

Annette Leibing, PhD
Professor of Medical Anthropology
Faculty of Nursing
Université de Montreal

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This article is about older women and the way hypertension is linked to their life in a favela, a “shantytown”, in Rio de Janeiro. Inspired by Foucault, I suggest calling this complex phenomenon ‘heterotopic illness’. By calling attention to the importance of place for understanding certain illnesses, the limited usefulness of some public health prevention campaigns is shown. Since hypertension can be considered a “disease of aging”, it will be argued that some place-related stressors often have a greater impact on seniors than they have on younger adults.

Keywords: Heterotopic illness, favela, Brazil, place, hypertension, aging.

Cite as:

Leibing, Annette. 2014. Heterotopia and Illness: Older women and Hypertension in a Brazilian Favela. Anthropology & Aging Quarterly 34(4): 225-237.

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Aging, Gender and Sexuality in Brazilian Society- Guita Grin Debert

Aging, Gender and Sexuality in Brazilian Society

Guita Grin Debert, PhD
Full Professor, Department of Anthropology Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences
Universidade Estadual de Campinas

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Abstract

Drawing on the interplay between gender, aging, and sexuality, the aim of this article is twofold: (1) to show how Brazilian gerontologists treat gender differences and sexual activity in old age; (2) to analyze the  ways  discourses regarding the aging body and sexuality are perceived and evaluated by older women and men . I argue that  attempts of gerontologists’ to eroticize old age have to contend with the widespread notion that the desire for sex is inevitably lost with age. Thus, in the retiree associations that were studied, men had a tendency to assume they are not ‘old’ because their erectile function was still in good condition, and divorced or widowed women, in senior citizen associations, tend to regard themselves as happy due to having freed themselves from the sexual obligations imposed by marriage. In both cases, the dominant belief that there is a loss of sexual desire in old age was reproduced.

Keywords: sexuality, gender, aging, Brazilian gerontology, sexology

Cite as:

Debert, Guita Grin. 2014. Aging, Gender and Sexuality in Brazilian Society. Anthropology & Aging Quarterly 34(4): 238-245.

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Surgery-for-Life: Aging, Sexual Fitness and Self-Management in Brazil – Alexander Edmonds

Surgery-for-Life: Aging, Sexual Fitness and Self-Management in Brazil

Alexander Edmonds
Professor of Social and Medical Anthropology
University of Edinburgh
aedmonds@exseed.ed.ac.uk

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Abstract

This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork on plastic surgery to explore tensions in aging norms and ideals for women in Brazil.  I situate my analysis in relation to debates about a “de-chronologized life course.”  Some scholars argue that the life course in late capitalism has become less standardized.  In this account, chronological age diminishes in importance as consumers are defined by life style choices available to all ages and the period of youth extends into middle age and beyond.  In Brazil consumers embrace plastic surgery as a means to “manage” aging, mental well-being, and reproductive and sexual health.  This promise of a flexible and optimized aging trajectory seems to echo the notion of a de-chronologized life course.  I argue, however, that medical discourse and patients’ accounts show ambivalence about aging and conflicts in the ideal of medically-managed sexual fitness for women.  Drawing on analysis of changes in family structure and women’s health regimes, I argue that passage through the life course, rather than becoming more flexible, is in some ways becoming more rigidly defined by biological processes.

Keywords: Aging, plastic surgery, de-chronologized life course, sexual fitness, self-management

Cite as:

Edmonds, Alexander. 2014. Surgery-for-Life: Aging, Sexual Fitness and Self-Management in Brazil. Anthropology & Aging Quarterly 34 (4): 246-259.

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Review: Elder Care Catastrophe: Rituals of Abuse in Nursing Homes & What You Can Do About It (Jason S. Ulsperger and J. David Knottnerus)

Ulsperger, Jason S. and Knottnerus, J. David. Elder Care Catastrophe: Rituals of Abuse in Nursing Homes & What You Can Do About It. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press. 2011. ISBN 9781594519079, 222 pp.
Price $ 28.95 (Paper).

As the population rapidly ages and people are living longer, today’s Boomers are faced with the complex decision of determining who is going to provide proper care for their elderly parents.  Dependent upon medical, financial, physical, mental and other specific needs, some individuals may decide to care for their parents on their own while others seek out long-term care facilities such as assisted living, adult day care, respite care or nursing homes that provide optimum care. While finding a facility takes time and much thought, the complexity of the issue lies in finding long-term care where elders are treated with kindness, respect, and cared for as human beings; not abused, neglected, ignored or treated as “impersonal, material items” (84).
Authors Jason Ulsperger and J. David Knottnerus investigate the root causes of abuse in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities based on systematic research and sociological theory to help one understand the different types of nursing home maltreatment.  The book is divided into nine chapters. Beginning with identifying the bureaucracy that encompasses today’s nursing homes and other long-term facilities, the text transitions into the history of nursing home care. Final chapters focus on the organizational dynamics and everyday rituals that can unintentionally lead to elder abuse and neglect.
Although present in the 1960s, nursing home care and maltreatment drastically emerged as a social problem and came to the forefront in the 1970s. This resulted in the establishment of the nursing home reform movement and efforts by organizations such as the National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) to continue to assume important roles in the history of nursing homes.  Interestingly as the authors point out, even with the development of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA) also known as the “Nursing Home Reform Act” (59) elder abuse and maltreatment continued to plaque our nation and impact the care of aging adults.  But why?
Bureaucracy and rules impact the overall care for our elderly.  Rules replace compassion.  Government regulations impact how assigned, everyday duties or “rituals” go unnoticed or undone due to daily tasks assigned to specific employees based on skill/knowledge levels.  Simple things such as removing dirty dishes from the table in a resident’s room or seeing a resident stranded in a hallway waiting for someone to roll them back to their room may not get done if top-level employees are the only ones available.  I totally agree that in our complex world rules are a necessity. However environments where people are dependent on compassion and quality care at a time in their life when they are alone, afraid, and/or ill, rules can contribute to unethical and inhumane care.
This book addresses the core issues of elder abuse and maltreatment and provides case vignettes of everyday situations that long-term/nursing facility residents tolerate due to bureaucratic policies. I was angered when I read many of these short stories which depict bureaucratic induced dehumanization of care. The authors stress the need for culture change; shifting away from the traditional nursing home model (130) to a positive, “resident-centered care” model, thus transforming a facility into a home. The authors remind the reader to acknowledge the elderly for the human beings they are and not “unemotional work products” (83). Engage them, don’t isolate and be responsive to individual needs. Hire employees who have the compassion and desire to care for the elderly and not just fill bureaucratic positions based on policies/demographics.
I would recommend this book to any lay person, healthcare provider, nursing facility employee; or anyone from the Boomer generation who may be faced with the decision of one day finding the proper home for a parent.  This book should be required reading for anyone working in a nursing home or long-term care facility as a reminder how not to treat those they are caring for. Although a quick read, this book provides a wealth of advice and strategies for lessening elder abuse and maltreatment. In one of the chapters the authors compare today’s nursing homes to zoos; stressing the point that residents who are unruly and labeled “troublemakers” are often tranquilized and restrained to protect themselves and those around them much like a zoo keeper would do to a wild gorilla. Both have staff ready to contain unruly creatures that cause disruptions throughout the workday, even if the physical welfare suffers.
Two other types of maltreatment the authors identify is “spoken aggression” and “infantilization” (122). Spoken aggression involves speaking to residents in an intimidating, cold tone or calling names (e.g., calling an older female resident a “mean old woman” or yelling at someone to “shut up and eat your dinner”) (123).  Infantilization is speaking in a condescending way that reduces the status of the resident to a young child (117). Healthcare providers need to be attuned to the subtle nuances that can degrade the status of those they are caring for by treating them like children instead of the adults they are.
The world around us is aging and providing compassionate care is the model all facilities should strive toward. The authors summarize the book nicely by concluding that in order to provide such care, nursing homes must undergo culture changes that downplay bureaucracy, revise staff policies, counter loneliness and isolation from the inside, empower residents and respond to their individual needs.

Diane L. Brown, MS
Program Manager II
Medical College of Wisconsin

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Note from the Editor-in-Chief

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As Editor-in-Chief of Anthropology & Aging Quarterly, I am proud to announce that our journal has finally completed preparation to take the bold step into the world of open-access digital publishing. Beginning with Volume 35 (the next issue), Anthropology & Aging Quarterly will be published by University Library Systems (a non-profit corporation) through the University of Pittsburgh. It will join other ejournals that our readership may be already familiar with in the D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program such as Ethnology and Health Culture and Society. We will work with the ULS and Pitt to partner with abstracting, indexing, and discovery service providers to increase our visibility.

Our contributors, peer reviewers, and staff all put a great deal of effort into the content of AAQ, and I am impressed with the quality of the results with every issue. One need only look at this current issue, featuring new contributions from three prominent anthropologists on three continents to find and example of the kind of rigor and dedication we value. This is work that can inspire anthropologists, social gerontologists, and others in related fields to engage as a community to expand our base of empirical knowledge on global aging, and explore new theoretical frames and concepts. We do this work because we believe it is important, and our new digital format will make this work freely available and readily accessible to the world. For more on open-access in social science research, I highly suggest the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s free podcast “Can Scholarship Be Free to Read.”

As we make our transition to this new format, many things will remain the same: our mission to create a global forum for the exchange of knowledge, our rigorous double-blind peer-review process, our commitment to publishing work that is original, diverse and engaging. Contributions will be protected under the Creative Commons Copyright attribution 3.0, and neither AAGE nor the University of Pittsburgh will have publication or reprint rights without author agreement. There will be no hefty publication fee as there are with many other open-access journals, but we will require all contributors to be members of AAGE.

Other things will change, beginning with the number of issues published per annum, and consequently the journal’s name. Beginning with Volume 35, the journal will be published twice per annum, and will drop “Quarterly” from its title. In an informal poll of members, “Anthropology & Aging” was the most preferred new title. Other changes will include a streamlined review system, search functions, ability to include new forms of media, and greater interactivity. We have also expanded our editorial advisory board by seven members, including scholars based in Japan, Demark, Canada, and the US.
Finally, AAQ would like to encourage student readers to submit essays for the revived Margaret Clark Award. Anthropology & Aging will have the right of first refusal for the winners of this award, which, together with workshops and conference events, is a key way that the journal remains intertwined with the ongoing activities of AAGE.

To be sure, this new step means new challenges and a lot of work to be sustainable. AAGE members will remain key, but keeping the journal vibrant will depend on growing our network and building relationships. We hope that the journal will present new opportunities to meet our challenges and build our strengths.

Thank you to all who have helped AAQ reach this point. Looking forward to your submissions.

Jason Danely, Editor-in-Chief Anthropology & Aging Quarterly

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Portfolio: Argentine Tango: Social dance health ‘to’ you, text and photos Jonathan Skinner

Anthropology & Aging Quarterly Volume 34, issue 4 (April 2014) pp.260-263

Argentine Tango: social dance health ‘to’ you

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These three photos evoke the plaint of life. They are a static portrait of Argentine tango dancers mid-movement. This is life and action frozen and memorialized from a long-awaited Christmas party in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Unlike Julie Taylor’s (2001) succession of mini-tango moves in her ethnography of tango and Argentina, a choreography by flipping, there is only the hint or trace of movement in these photos: the legs in open position with torque on the body, a shoelace working its way free; couples in closed embrace, the leader with motility, the partner with either open or closed eyes, primed to follow their initiations. There is longevity in the pictures from the detail of the marriage rings to the wrinkles on faces solemn with the dance, concentrating but also flowing with solace – ‘relaxed responsiveness’ as Richard Powers (2013) puts it.
Dance – described by Spencer (1) as that ‘nonutilitarian patterned movement’ – can be cathartic, controlling, competitive, communitarian as well as sustaining, maintaining and self-generating. There is solidarity amongst dancers, regularity in the order of attending, learning and performing a dance, and mutual self-affirming of an ontology of being-in-the-world each night when one dons one’s dance clothes and horns a pair of dance shoes. Leslie Gotfrit (1988) speaks to the nostalgia and longing of a bygone body in women reclaiming theirselves on the boogie floor. The same can be said of the tango couple, rejuvenating under the Christmas decorations. There is familiarity and comfort in the sociality of the Other in one’s arms, often a life partner of decades moving with you, reassuring walking as one. “I dance to you”: the ‘to’ a linking narrative and a metaphor for corporeal intimacy in the eyes of Judith Hamera’s (2001) appropriation of Irigaray-ian philosophy.
‘Indistinction’ is how Jonathan Bollen (2001) phrases it as the dancers lean in, support each other, and begin to move in an improvised script to a music from a far-away land and a far-away time. In this case, social dance transports us to Argentina in the 1940s. In the beating of the hearts, and the fleetness of the feet, and the alert anti-clockwise lead around the room, there is wellbeing. Solace seeps up through the motile feet and calm descends from a labile imagination.  Argentine tango, a self-selecting social dance, affects the dancers – variously, an anti-psychotic (Anon. 2013), a stabilizer for Parkinson’s (Hackney et al 2007), an omni-therapy (Woodley and Sotelano 2011). These are just some of the benefits of this genre of social dancing. Other social social dancing such as ballroom dancing also has its strengths as a form of ‘serious leisure’ (Stebbins 2006) – a personal vehicle for successful ageing (Skinner 2013) – and can retain muscle density and stave off social isolation amongst other benefits. But Argentine Tango has the ‘Healing Embrace’ (Berve 2008): it is a resting place for the active. Those interested in more tango visuals and in following up on the worth of tango in the medical setting can follow this link to the annual ‘All of Us Are Crazy for Tango’ programe put on by Hospital Borda in Buenos Aires.
Wherever danced – from Buenos Aires to Belfast, and carrying whatever condition – from physical to mental health issues, this dance addiction can become a boon and adjunct to other fracturing and faltering rhythms in life.
Dr Jonathan Skinner
University of Roehampton
References
Anon.
2013 The “tango therapy,” very special treatment hospitals in Argentina. http://www.pineywoodsghosttours.com/the-tango-therapy-very-special-treatment-hospitals-in-argentina.html, accessed 29 December.
Berve, Anette
2008 Tango Therapy: The Healing Embrace. The Argentina Independent, 1 August, http://www.argentinaindependent.com/life-style/society-life-style/tango-therapy-the-healing-embrace/, accessed 6 February 2014.
Bollen, Jonathan
2001 Queer Kinesthesia: Performativity on the Dance Floor. In Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities On and Off the Stage. J. Desmond ed. Pp. 285-314. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
Gotfrit, Leslie
1988 Women Dancing Back: Disruption and the Politics of Pleasure. Journal of Education 170(3): 122-141.
Hackney, M. E., Kantorovich, S., Levin, R., and Gammon, M.
2007 Effects of tango on functional mobility in Parkinson’s disease: A preliminary study. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy 31(4): 173-179. See more at: http://www.ncpad.org/624/2589/Effects~of~Tango~on~Functional~Mobility~in~Parkinson~s~Disease#sthash.PH5TXpsQ.dpuf.
Hamera, Judith
2001 I Dance To you: Reflections on Irigaray’s I Love To You in Pilates and Virtuosity. Cultural Studies 15(2): 229-240.
Powers, Richard
2013 Great Partnering. http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/partnering.htm, accessed 29 December.
Skinner, Jonathan
2013 Social Dance for Successful Aging: The Practice of Health, Happiness, and Social Inclusion Amongst Senior Citizens. Anthropology & Aging Quarterly 34(1): 18-29.
Stebbins, Robert A.
2006 Serious Leisure: A Perspective For Our Time. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Taylor, Julie
2001 Paper Tangos. Durham: Duke University.
Woodley, Karen and Sotelano, Martin
2011 Tango Therapy 2, Research and Practice. Cardiff: Lulu.com/Tango Creations.

Review: Gray Panthers (Roger Sanjek)

Sanjek, Roger.  Gray Panthers. University of Pennsylvania Press.  320 pp.Cloth 2009  ISBN 978-0-8122-4137-2 , $65.00; Paper 2011, ISBN 978-0-8122-2191-6  $26.50; Ebook 2011, ISBN 978-0-8122-0351-6,$26.50

Studies of elder activism are rare indeed.  Much more so the kind of rich and detailed account which veteran anthropologist and activist Roger Sanjek offers us here.  Gray Panthers has much to give those interested in older people, not just because of the quality of the study itself, but also because the Panthers to whom we are introduced are themselves experts on aging from whom we need to learn.
Some professor once taught me that  the test of a good ethnography was the degree to which the data it presented could enable another scholar to re-anaylze it to answer different questions.  I was reminded of this criteria as I read Gray Panthers.  The careful study of the emblematic activist organization is rich enough in data to speak to a dozen different research agendas: relating to the history of left politics in the United States, the activism of older people, social movement organizing, leadership and gender, ideas about older people, intergenerational politics, and insider anthropology, among others. The life history of a social movement, Gray Panthers traces the story of the eponymous organization from the moment of the group’s inception in 1971 in a fight against mandatory retirement and the ageism it represented.  The group grew to represent the interests of older Americans in a variety of ways: denouncing living conditions in nursing homes, unethical practices in the hearing aid industry (in collaboration with Ralph Nader), media portrayals of older people, for example.   Yet, it has been much more than that.  It’s slogan, “Age and Youth in Action,” signals the group’s intergenerational philosophy.  It took up pressing social justice issues of the moment, including the war in Viet Nam, public health care, sexism and racism.  It is to this larger critique that the group owes its name, an intentional reference to the Black Panthers. The story spans several decades and many states, including specific chapters focusing on the Panthers in Berkeley, New York, and Washington.  (Sanjek originally encountered the Panthers in Berkeley in 1977.  He and his wife both became personally involved with the Panthers.  The author only later took up the group as an object of study.)  The account continues through the organizations various ups and downs, including internal conflict, and the death of its found Maggie Kuhn in 1995, to the time of writing.
For scholars interested in aging, the book is doubly fruitful.  There is much to learn about how older people organize and do politics.  Most striking perhaps is the symbolic politics which the Panthers were so good at: intentionally interrupting mainstream views of older people and aging by doing “outrageous” things.  Another important question for older activists is time.  In Gray Panthers, we see this particular relation to time in at least three ways.  First, older people are often retired, thus have more time available to dedicate to their causes.  Second, older people also benefit from long experience and extensive networks.  Once and again in Gray Panthers we see how members make use of expertise and contacts acquired in earlier stages of their lives.  One of the most personally compelling aspects for this reader was the way the Panthers connect us to earlier activist movements and political struggles that have been all but forgotten in US political memory — in particular the pre-cold war left traditions.  Third, the activists and their organization have to contend with the fact they are nearer the end of their lives, than the beginning.  This can create a sense of urgency, that time is limited. It also creates practical challenges for political organizing.  Experienced and knowledgeable members are more likely than their younger counterparts to be sidelined by illness, or even to die.  The particular strengths of and challenges faced by the elder activists here can thus inform our understanding of the third age more generally.
In sum, Gray Panthers is a book that needed to be written.  Evidently Sanjek was the man for the job.  The Panthers have played an important role in redefining what it means to be old.   This book both describes and continues that project.

Lindsay DuBois
Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology
Dalhousie University

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