Category Archives: Conference

AAGE at SfAA 2017

The 2017 Society for Applied Anthropology meetings are fast approaching (March 28- April 1), and, as always, AAGE members will not only be presenting work, but hosting a networking breakfast event for members, students, and anyone interested in learning more about us.

Thank you to Iveris Martinez for compiling this list of relevant sessions at this year’s conference. Continue reading

AAGE at #GSA2016: program highlights

lensonagingEvery few years, the Gerontological Society of America and the American Anthropological Association are scheduled for the exact same dates, and we have to make a difficult choice. A small contingent of anthropologists will be representing AAGE this year at #GSA2016, including Iveris Martinez who ends her tenure as President (but luckily stays around in our executive board as past president). Here you can find more information about our AAGE social events, business meeting and presentations by members. Continue reading

AAGE at #AAA2016! How to get involved in Minneapolis this November


The AAA meeting is massive. This year, thousands of anthropologists will descend on the “City of Lakes” for the four days of talks, meetings, workshops, and events, and once again, AAGE is there to help you find the most exciting panels on aging and the life course. The guide below contains links to the AAA program so that registered members can add them to the personal scheduler. There are also links to the AAGE/ Anthropology of Aging and the Life Course Interest Group meeting (Friday, 18 November 12:15PM-1:30PM) and  the AALIG special interlocutor session with Margaret Lock in conversation with Jay Sokolovsky and Athena McLean (Saturday 19 November 12:15PM-1:30PM). If we missed your panel/paper/poster or event, let us know. See you in Minneapolis!

*Please note that since the original post, room assignment are no longer listed on the online program and the rooms listed here may be incorrect. Best to check in closer to the conference!

Continue reading

AAGE at #EASA2016

EASA 2016 was hosted by Univ. of Milano-Bicocca. (Photo: D'uomo, by Jason Danely)

The magnifient Duomo in central Milan. EASA 2016 was hosted by University of Milan, Bicocca

This was my first time attending the biennial meeting of the European Association of Social Anthropology, and with over 130 panels, laboratories, films screenings and events and some 1700 attendees from across Europe and the world, it didn’t fail to disappoint. It had all the breadth and excitement of the AAA meetings, but on a more modest scale that facilitated the kinds of interactions you get at smaller meetings of only a few hundred attendees. The meeting was hosted by the Department of Human Sciences and Education ‘Ricardo Massa’ and the Department of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Not as flashy as a convention centre or hotel (the book exhibit consisted of about ten tables set up in a corridor), but I have to say the organization and technical support was outstanding. Aside from a mostly comical issue with a live feed during the opening plenary with Didier Fassin, everything seemed to run well (see Allegra Lab’s blog for an interesting take on Fassin’s talk). Which is very good news indeed when you are dashing between sessions trying to catch all the panels that you can!

As with most anthropology conferences, I didn’t get to see half of the panels I wanted to, and if anyone else reading this blog had a favorite panel related to ageing that I don’t report on, my sincere apologies. Please leave a comment below and let us know about it! Continue reading

CFP: Foolish things, clever stuff? The material side of nursing and care

Date: 18th20th January 2017, deadline for abstracts 25 May, 2016

Location: Heidelberg, Germany

Nursing is more than an interpersonal rapport in which individuals are connected to one another in a special relationship. In the course of the organisation of nursing and care – whether in a nursing home, a hospital or at home – a multitude of diverse items are involved, each with their own object-logic. Exactly what these are and how they are perceived by the nursing staff or the patients varies considerably and is dependent for instance upon the setting under consideration or the temporal context. How though, when considered in combination, do things which are neither an arbitrarily applicable means to an end (foolish things) nor as sophisticated troubleshooting all-rounders (clever stuff) – contribute to the construction of nursing and care?

The interdisciplinary and international conference ‘Dumme Dinge, schlaue Sachen?’ (‘Foolish things, clever stuff?’) takes up this question and focuses as well on the things of care: Material objects have until now usually been considered as ‘auxiliary resources’. In academic discussion as well as in collections, museums and exhibitions they remain largely unseen. This conference forms the conclusion of the interdisciplinary research project: ‘Die Pflege der Dinge – Die Bedeutung von Objekten in Geschichte und gegenwärtiger Praxis der Pflege’ (Care and Things – Objects and their Significance in Past and Present Nursing Practice, in brief: Pflegedinge) sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The central element of the conference is to offer the opportunity for dialogue and for networking among researchers with a focus on material culture studies and researchers with a focus on nursing and care. Along with the presentation and discussion of the central results of the project’s collaborators, the conference is above all aimed at bringing together scientists, researchers and academics from beyond their particular disciplines and beyond national borders, who wish to present object-centred approaches to the following, or similar, issues:

  • How are/were theoretical and conceptual developments in things of care materialised?
  • How do/did individuals and things in nursing and care settings interact? How can/could objects lead to changes within the nursing and care sectors?
  • How do/did new nursing-oriented knowledge and the introduction of new things interact with one another in nursing and care settings?
  • How do/did societal perceptions and arrangements materialise in things of care, and how do/did things contribute to constructing them? Who had/has access to what knowledge? How are/were possible power structures formulated here?
  • (How and why) do things in nursing and care settings contribute to creating or preventing for instance personal privacy, autonomy, safety, normality, intimacy and

Contributions from nursing studies, ethnology, cultural anthropology, gerontology, history, history of nursing, museum studies, social pedagogy and organisational studies, sociology and other, related disciplines would be very welcome.

Contributions may be submitted and presented either in German or English. Please send your abstract (max. 500 words) together with a brief introduction of yourself (max. 50 words) at the latest by 25/5/2016 to:

Further information on this research project can be found at: http://www.

Who Wouldn’t Want to Retire in Vancouver?: #SfAA2016 Conference Report

Vancouver is a beautiful city, often topping the list of best cities in the world to live and retire in. It is not surprising that this year’s SfAA meeting was the most well-attended ever. Quite a few of us interested in the anthropology of aging and life course issues were there. While gazing at the gorgeous harbor views and walking in Stanley Park, we enjoyed having a chance to visit and discuss things going on in our field. Beyond the scenic outdoor settings and many cafes where we planted ourselves, we also attended relevant sessions at the conference venue.

AAGE President Iveris Martinez organized an excellent session co-sponsored by the SMA (Society for Medical Anthropology) and COPAA (Consortium on Practicing and Applied Anthropology Programs).The title of this session was “The Value of Applied Anthropology in Gerontology: Imagining alternative career paths at the intersection of anthropology, health, and aging”. Panel participants included Jay Sokolovsky, Sherri Briller, Megan Stamey McAlvain, Nanami Suzuki (below left)and Peggy Perkinson (pictured above left). Session discussants were Jean Schensul & Jay Sokolovsky. This panel explored the intersection between anthropology and gerontology in applied settings. It brought together anthropologists (both senior and junior) who work in a variety of settings seeking to employ anthropology to provide innovative ways of helping health professionals view and respond to health issues in late life. Specific topics covered included graduate medical education in treating older adults at the end of life, Japanese care workers helping older adults after the Great East Japan Earthquake, training staff for a Chinese Continuing Care Retirement Community, anthropological experiences in training physicians and healthcare workers for working with older patients, anthropologically training medical students and physicians about health and late life in cultural context, and teaching at the intersections of anthropology and aging.
AAGEatSfAA3_suzukiSome aging related topics appeared in other sessions including: joint development of health interventions with older adults in senior housing (Schensul, Radda, Reisine & Foster-Bey), discriminatory service delivery and understanding elders in HIV prevention campaigns in South Africa (Darling), power, sexuality and aging (Maynard-Tucker), CBPR physical activity intervention for rural residents (Schoenberg, Hoogland, Bardach & Tarasenko), caring across cultures: Mexicanas shaping eldercare (Kniseley), animal assisted therapy and aging issues (Yonce), museum anthropology and aboriginal seniors (Krmpotich),and generativity and older adult museum volunteering in the US (Shay). A special shout-out to those who gave aging related posters in the student poster session: factors that influence older women’s long term care planning (Corthright) and cultural associations between self-reported well-being and diminished physical performance among older adults (Snodgrass).
On Saturday morning, we presented ourselves at the International Suite at the Westin Bayshore for our AAGE annual networking breakfast and roundtable event (left). Thanks to Maria Vesperi and Jay Sokolovsky who helped us reserve such a lovely space for our breakfast meeting and to Tom May for making it possible. Thanks to Iveris Martinez and Amy Paul-Ward who helped us forage for the breakfast offerings ahead – there is no shortage of nice things to eat in Vancouver! In this elegant suite, we decided to forego our plan for having separate roundtables and have a larger more free-wheeling group discussion instead. We introduced the topics we had planned for the individual roundtables: preparing and engaging in applied gerontology careers, addressing social and cultural barriers to aging services, building social and health interventions with older adults, teaching about anthropology of aging and the life course, aging in place in Japan, reaching non-academic audiences with news about aging. Going forward, full sessions on any of these topics would likely be welcome for our upcoming conferences.


We discovered that nearly half of those who attended the networking breakfast were new to AAGE – a very encouraging finding indeed! Hopefully, all of these folks will become interested in joining our organization and continuing to participate. The breakfast discussion was lively about future directions and opportunities in the field of anthropology of aging and life course studies. One especially exciting development was that several of the students who presented their emerging work at our AAGE health disparities workshop conference in Miami, FL in 2015 gave updates at SfAA on their projects (Stanley and Stamey McAlvain). We are looking forward to hearing more from them and others at the 2017 AAGE conference which Jason Danely is organizing in Oxford, UK.

From this brief report, you can see that lots was going on of interest for those who are interested in the anthropology of aging and the life course. We explored Vancouver and learned more about each other’s important work in the field of aging.  Some of us even had our first Malaysian food at the Banana leaf restaurant in the company of other gerontologists –delicious! In short, it was great to get together with our colleagues, hear about new developments in their work and the field as a whole – and have an excellent time exploring the treasure that is Vancouver.
See you at SfAA in Santa Fe next year!

Sherylyn Briller, SfAA Liaison


AAGE symposium and networking at SfAA 2016, Vancouver

PageLines- sunlogo.pngJoin us Thursday, March 31st at 3:305:20pm for an AAGE Symposium on The Value of Applied Anthropology in Gerontology: Imagining Career Paths at the Intersection of Anthropology, Health, and Aging (co-sponsored by the Society for Medical Anthropology) at 76th Annual Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting to be held at The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver located at 1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver, BC V6G 2V4 CANADA (Coquitlam Room)
STAMEY MCALVAIN, Megan (NMSU) Quality of Life: A Qualitative Examination of Residents’ Training in Older Adult End of Life Care
SUZUKI, Nanami (Nat’l Museum of Ethnology) The Meaning of Collaborative Practices Conducted by Care Workers and Anthropologists after the Great East Japan Earthquake toward Aging-in-Place of Migrant Older Adults
PERKINSON, Margaret A. (UMBC) and ROCKEMANN, David D. (Plexus Grp) Teaching Applied Gerontology to Front-Line Staff of a New Continuing Care Retirement Community in China
SOKOLOVSKY, Jay (USF-St. Petersburg) It’s Always about Process: Anthropologically Training Medical Students and Physicians about Health and ‘Late Life’ in Cultural Context
BRILLER, Sherylyn (Purdue U) Teaching at the Intersection of Anthropology and Aging: Preparing Students for Meaningful Applied Gerontology Careers

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There will also be a light breakfast and informal discussion on “Applied Anthropology and Aging” (suggested donation is $8)*

Time: Saturday, April 2, 9-10:30AM

Place: International Suite at the Westin Bayshore Hotel

*Sign up at the SfAA registration desk or at the Thursday 3:30 session (above)

Discussion Table Hosts:

Sherylyn Briller  Preparing for and engaging in applied gerontology careers

Iveris Martinez  Addressing social and cultural barriers to aging services 

Jean Schensul   Building social and health interventions with older adults

Jay Sokolovsky  Teaching the anthropology of aging and the life course

Nanami Suzuki  Aging in place in Japan: the roles of anthropologists and caregivers

Maria Vesperi    Reaching non-academic audiences with news about aging

If you have any questions, please contact Iveris Martinez (

CFP: Evidencing the ageing process: An Anthropology of misfortune, (un)certainty, and risk (AAA 2016, Minneapolis)

If you’re interested please send in your abstract (max. 250 words) to Philip Kao and Jolanda Lindenberg (, before 8 April.

Evidencing the ageing process: An Anthropology of misfortune, (un)certainty, and risk

Organizers: Jolanda Lindenberg, PhD & Philip Y. Kao, PhD

Despite a growing attention to the biomedical and demographic considerations regarding ageing, the uncertainties and articulations in the ageing process remain palpable yet overdetermined. The bodily and biological processes of ageing rely on symptom aetiology that creates, explores, and pathologizes evidence of objectively considered markers.
But these markers are not as certain or naturalized as portrayed. In this session, we explore what older individuals consider evidence and accident of the ageing process. In other words, how do individuals in late-life perceive the nature of misfortune or fortune, and furthermore how do they navigate and make sense of these experiences, including loss and changes in risk perception, for better or worse? As an initial salvo, we suggest that focusing on ideas and practices concerning misfortune provides a window into the phenomenology of ageing in order to tease out the hidden/denied capacities such as late-life style, coping strategies, and resiliency as resources to combat the elective affinities underscoring ageist and other ideological constructions of the ageing process.

The sociological question of misfortune was famously raised by Max Weber to enquire into ways individuals understand their social situation, and we take this forward by exploring the construction of causal explanations, accidents and subsequent responses to misfortune in a variety of contexts. Misfortune has long been studied within the context of medical anthropology and the anthropology of religion. This panel aims to widen this scope by presenting new contexts for research. Of particular interest will be how conceptualizations of taken-for-granted events and “natural” courses of ageing obtain on the one hand, and how ambiguities and uncertainties emerge and resist on the other hand. Often enough, situations such as bodily decline, loss of a spouse, and/or changes in a living situation are considered an inescapable, intrinsic part of the ageing process. But the boundaries between natural or normal and unnatural and abnormal are not always evident in how individuals see and experience ageing. These boundaries will be magnified and scrutinized during this panel. Idioms (Reynolds Whyte), discursive practices (Foucault) and strategies to engage with and interact with misfortune as well as how these interactions gain significance in relations and meaningful social action will be investigated. Ultimately, the construction of ageing can be seen as a complex process involving not just experts and prophetical signifiers, but a symbolic obviation of (un)certainties, claims, prognoses, accidents, evidence and (mis)fortunes.

Keywords: certainty, uncertainty, misfortune, risk, ageing

 Contact Info:

Jolanda Lindenberg:

Philip Kao:

Aging and Anthropology at AAI 2016, Maynooth, Ireland


There is an old Irish folktale goes something like this:

A raven was carrying his chicks, one at a time, from an island to the mainland. In mid flight he asked the first, “Who will carry me when I am old and can no longer fly?”

“I will,” answered the young raven, but the father did not believe him, and dropped him into the sea.

The same question was put to the second chick. He too replied, “I will carry you when you are old,” and the father also let him fall into the sea.

The last chick received the same question, but he answered, “Father, you will have to fend for yourself when you are old, because by then I will have my own family to care for.”

“You speak the truth,” said the father raven, and carried the chick to safety.

Arthur Kleinman keynote at AAI

Arthur Kleinman keynote at AAI “Care as Moral Experience,”

Indeed, when it comes to the care of elderly people, tales like this one (not to mention the occasional controversial ethnography) don’t offer the most favorable picture of Irish care.  All the better then that the organizers of the 2016 conference of the Anthropological Association of Ireland (15-16 March) chose “Caring Cutlures/Cultures of Care” as their theme.
Maynooth University, a modern university on the grounds of a nineteenth century Catholic seminary, and the only Irish University with a Department of Anthropology, was the venue for this year’s conference. For two days (just preceding St. Patrick’s Day festivities), participants from across Europe gathered to engage with questions on the nature and significance of care in anthropology.
The conference did not explicitly focus on care of older people, yet it was telling that the keynote speaker was Prof. Arthur Kleinman (Harvard), who, while contributing widely to medical anthropology, has turned in his more recent work, to his personal experience of caring for his wife Joan. He cared for her for 10 years, during which she was also living with dementia. Reflecting on his experience, Kleinman argued that caregiving (and perhaps the care of older, ill, or disabled family) is central to humanity, and therefore should also be placed at the center of anthropology. In his keynote,  he presented a wide ranging discussion of care, from phenomenology and ethics, to art and ageing. He admonished what he felt was the “anti-humanitarian” effects of anthropological critiques on the politics of care, and particularly medical and international aid organisations. He chastised anthropologists for too hastily dismissing the real good that carers do, and encouraged us to consider ways to collaborate and improve care rather than stop at the point of our intellectual project of deconstruction.
Kleinman was not the only one at the conference to talk about care of the elderly. In fact, the number of papers presented on topics related to ageing and end of life care far outnumbered those on care of children or disabled persons. This swell of interest in ageing shows what an exciting moment this is for our field, and how powerful our work can be when brought together under a theme like care.
I began day 1 with two presentations on long term care. Resident community in nursing homes: A promising practice in the era of individualism? (Christine Øye, Bergen University College, Anne Karen  Bjelland (UiB), Gudmund Ågotnes, Bergen University College & Frode F. Jacobsen, Bergen University College). The authors described a small piece of a multinational study into the future of long term care, drawing mainly on ethnographic observations of resident interactions during meals. The authors brought up a theme that carried on throughout the conference concerning the tension between autonomy and collective engagement, particularly in care institutions. This was brought out most forcefully by Susanne van den Buuse (University of Amsterdam) in her paper The autonomy paradox: how promoting resident autonomy in a Dutch nursing home has a reverse effect, in which she described how Dutch initiatives to encourage older persons to embrace values of capability and self-reliance (bafflingly referred to as the “participation society”) resulted in role confusion, carer neglect, family resentments, and breakdowns in care. While many argue with the lack of personal freedom and dignity afforded in care institutions, these papers show how too much emphasis on autonomy leads to isolation and the moralised pressure to embody active ‘ageing’ that has its own damaging effects.
Questions of how to provide care for older adults and other vulnerable groups are particularly salient in an age of neoliberal governmentality and rapid technological advances. Together, both of these have contributed to models of care that privilege the role of the imagined independent, rational individual actor, deflecting responsibility away from public welfare institutions. While Annemarie Mol’s Logic of Care and Sharon Kaufmann’s Ordinary Medicine have been some of the most widely influential ethnographic accounts of this critique in recent medical anthropology, these and others draw on a much longer discussion on the relationship between individuals and the state that runs through political anthropology. Jacqui O’Riordan, Carol Kelleher & Feilim O’hAdhmaill, (University College Cork) and Anette Fagertun (Bergen University College, Norway) link this discussion to their work in Ireland and Norway respectively. Lived experiences of caring relations and interdependencies: Human orientation and moral reasoning as challenges to neoliberal rational thinking considered the ways insights from the ethics of care and feminist philosophy can offer alternatives to neoliberal subjectivity.  The anti-politics of Care in Norway: a theoretical discussion, Anette Fagertun pointed out how transformations in the kinds of knowledge used to shape and assess the effectiveness of care has at once depoliticised and “refamilialized”elder care.

Maynooth University, path to the cemetery. (Where else would you find an anthropologist?)

Maynooth University, path to the cemetery. (Where else would you find an anthropologist?)

In contrast to these more critical papers, there were several that highlighted the success of more grassroots, community focused, and holistic approaches to care. Amy Murphy, Cormac Sheehan, Chrizine Blackhorse, (University College Cork, The Crystal Project ) presented their work using a interactive drama techniques to collaborate with carers of people living with dementia (Pressure Play: forum theatre for carers of people living with dementia), and Andrea Kuckerg-Wöstheinrich (St. Augustinus Memory-Zentrum, Neuss, Germany) described how perspective taking is being used to make life better for people living with dementia in German long-term care (Changing perspectives – an institutional challenge in delivering qualitative good care for people with dementia). Dalia Zein, a landscape architect and anthropology Masters student at Central European University Hungary, highlighted the ways feminist architecture is easing unpaid care in Vienna (Infrastructures of Care: Tackling Unpaid Care Work and Ageing in Vienna’s Gender-Sensitive City Planning). Finally, Bodil Ludvigsen (University of Copenhagen) described how the ubiquity of the state in the everyday lives of Danish citizens is expressed through attachments and intimacy with home nurses. In her paper, Elderly people, home nurses, and relatedness, Bodil described how, far from being a target of resistance, older people living alone welcomed the benevolence of the state and felt empowered by its support.
My own paper, Wounded Worlds: compassion and vulnerability in narratives of unpaid carers of older adults in Japan and the UK, reported preliminary thoughts on subjectivity, emotion, and embodiment among family carers in two different cultural contexts. As Kleinman underlined in his keynote address, care is an excellent opening for conducting cross-cultural research, and my paper presented what struck me as overwhelming similarities between Japan and the UK when it came to the affects of care practices on the experience of self and the other. Ethnography of family care of the elderly is still an area that anthropology has much to contribute, and surprisingly few presentations ventured into the homes of carers or older adults.

There were many more presentations that I could not attend that will be of interest to AAGE members. I’ll just list some of them here, and urge you to get in touch if you want to know more.

Equality issues in conceptualising the body/self in Palliative Care Luciana Lolich & Kathleen Lynch, University College Dublin

Exploring the Perspectives and Experiences of Business Managers when working with Customers with Dementia Hannah Murphy & Jeanne Jackson, University College Cork

Crisis of care, migrant women and social reproduction in Spain Sílvia Bofill Poch, University of Barcelona

Growing old together: Deafness and aging in the context of cutbacks in care Anja Hiddinga, Michou Benoist  & Madeleine Herzog, University of Amsterdam

Long-term Care in Spain: The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Social Policies and its Effects on Older Adults with Care Needs Blanca Deusdad, Rovira i Virgili University

The number of panels examining culture and care at larger conferences like AAA is growing each year, and lends credence to Kleinman’s assertion that care is not just a passing fad, but an emerging center for theorizing human life. Moreover, if this conference is any indication, those anthropologists who work on ageing will be at the forefront of this endeavor.

Dementia and Everyday Life: Creative Approaches

7th April 2016, University of Manchester
Understanding dementia and its entanglement with everyday life presents a conceptual and methodological challenge to a range of disciplines in the humanities, health and natural sciences. In this day of academic seminars, we explore some of the work being conducted in humanities and health research to examine this topic, focusing on the creative approaches that are being developed to tackle questions of selfhood, relationality, materiality and narrative.

The event is co-hosted by the Morgan Centre for the Study of Everyday Life, the Dementia and Ageing Research Team and MICRA, the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing.

Time and Location

7th April, 2016. 11am-5pm
Jean McFarlane Building Oxford Road, University of Manchester

Building 92 on the Campus Map

Nearest train stations: Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly, both around 10-20 minutes walk from the Jean McFarlane Building.


Dr Andrea Capstick and Dr Katherine Ludwin, School of Dementia Studies, University of Bradford

Dr Christina Buse, Department of Sociology, University of York

Dr Lucy Burke, Department of English, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Jackie Kindell, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, Older People’s Mental Health Service, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Early Career Speakers

We have a few opportunities for early career researchers (including PhD students) to present their work and some limited funding to cover their travel expenses. If you are working on dementia and everyday life phenomena, particularly if you are using creative methods, then please consider putting forward a proposal to speak. We are open to creative suggestions for format, although ECR speakers should bear in mind that their slots will likely be limited to 15-20 minutes. To apply, contact the organisers with a suggested title and abstract of no more than 300 words by 21st March 2016. We will inform successful applicants by 23rd March.


This is a small event and is open to academic researchers working in the field of dementia and everyday life, or related areas.

To request a place at the workshop please email with your name and a sentence or two about your area of research.


Dr Andrew Balmer, Sociology and the Morgan Centre for the Study of Everyday Lives, University of Manchester.

Sarah Campbell, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, and the Dementia and Ageing Research Team, University of Manchester.