Anthropology & Aging Books for Review

April 26, 2019
This is a list of books available for review in Anthropology & Aging. If you are interested in reviewing one of these titles or have a suggestion for a book that you would like to see reviewed, please send this information, including the book format you prefer (we encourage e-versions whenever available) to the Anthropology & Aging book reviews editor, Christine Verbruggen at anthro-age@mail.pitt.edu and register your full name, address, and a brief description of your areas of expertise or background that qualifies you for writing a review in the author submission portal of Anthropology & Aging. If your request is approved, you will receive additional instructions on composing the review. Reviews are typically 750-900 words long and submitted within three months of the receipt of the title. Reviews for films, performances, exhibits, or other media with relevance to the anthropology of aging are also welcome, but we ask that you contact the book reviews editor before proceeding with the review.

The hospice team: Who we are and how we care (2019)

Wender, Chaim J. and Patricia El. Morrison (eds). 2019. The hospice team: Who we are and how we care. Baltimore: Health Professions Press.

pp 208

This singular work offers a truly interdisciplinary team perspective on caring, presented by 21 veterans of hospice service representing the array of disciplines in effective teams—physicians, nurses, certified nurse assistants, social workers, chaplains, music therapists, bereavement counselors, a volunteer coordinator, and a volunteer of more than 26 years. Contributors share professional and personal experiences that encompass the medical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, interpersonal, social, cultural, and economic dimensions of dying and bereavement. These are brought together through a person-centered approach that champions knowing each person being cared for to create the necessary opportunity for communication and trust that are the hallmarks of high-quality hospice care.

Caring for the people of the clouds: aging and dementia in Oaxaca (2019)

Yahalom, Jon (with a foreword by Xavier E. Cagigas). 2019. Caring for the people of the clouds: aging and dementia in Oaxaca. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

pp 280.

In rural Mexico, people often say that Alzheimer’s does not exist. “People do not have Alzheimer’s because they don’t need to worry,” said one Oaxacan, explaining that locals lack the stresses that people face “over there”—that is, in the modern world. Alzheimer’s and related dementias carry a stigma. In contrast to the way elders are revered for remembering local traditions, dementia symbolizes how modern families have forgotten the communal values that bring them together. In Caring for the People of the Clouds, psychologist Jonathan Yahalom provides an emotionally evocative, story-rich analysis of family caregiving for Oaxacan elders living with dementia. Based on his extensive research in a Zapotec community, Yahalom presents the conflicted experience of providing care in a setting where illness is steeped in stigma and locals are concerned about social cohesion. Traditionally, the Zapotec, or “people of the clouds,” respected their elders and venerated their ancestors. Dementia reveals the difficulty of upholding those ideals today. Yahalom looks at how dementia is understood in a medically pluralist landscape, how it is treated in a setting marked by social tension, and how caregivers endure challenges among their families and the broader community. Yahalom argues that caregiving involves more than just a response to human dependency; it is central to regenerating local values and family relationships threatened by broader social change. In so doing, the author bridges concepts in mental health with theory from medical anthropology. Unique in its interdisciplinary approach, this book advances theory pertaining to cross-cultural psychology and develops anthropological insights about how aging, dementia, and caregiving disclose the intimacies of family life in Oaxaca.

As I remember it: Teachings (ʔəms taʔaw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder (2019, online)

Paul, Elsie. 2019.     As I remember it: Teachings (?Əms ta?aw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder. UBC Raven Space. (online)

Meet Elder Elsie Paul and discover her stories, family history, and teachings – ʔəms tɑʔɑw – in a multimedia, online book that captures the wit and wisdom of her storytelling.

Raised by her grandparents on their ancestral territory on the Sunshine Coast, Elsie Paul of the Tla’amin Nation spent most of her childhood surrounded by the ways, teachings, and stories of her people. As her adult life unfolded against a backdrop of colonialism and racism, she drew strength and guidance from the teachings she had learned. In As I Remember It, she shares this traditional knowledge with a new generation in an engaging style and innovative format.

With this immersive online publication, readers can learn about the Sliammon language, listen to Elsie tell her stories, and watch short animations of legends and events. They can navigate by theme – Colonialism, Community, Territory, Wellness – explore the contents through interactive maps, browse the audio and visual galleries, or make use of the instructional materials designed for teachers and students.

Foreign Countries of Old Age: East and Southeast European Perspectives on Aging (2020)

Gramshammer-Hhol, Dagmar and Oana Ursulesku (eds). 2020. Foreign Countries of Old Age: East and Southeast European Perspectives on Aging. Transcript Verlag.

pp 400.

The exploration of what May Sarton calls the “foreign country of old age” usually does not go far beyond the familiar: the focus of aging studies has thus far clearly rested upon North America and Western Europe. This multidisciplinary essay collection critically examines conditions and representations of old age and aging in Eastern and Southeastern Europe from various perspectives of the humanities and social sciences. By shedding light on these culturally specific contexts, the contributions widen our understanding of the aging process in all its diversity and demonstrate that a shift in perspectives might in fact challenge a number of taken-for-granted positions and presumptions of aging studies.

Waiting on Retirement: Aging and Economic Insecurity in Low-Wage Work (2018)

Gatta, Mary. 2018. Waiting on Retirement: Aging and Economic Insecurity in Low-Wage Work. Redwood City CA: Stanford University Press.

pp 184.

America is witnessing a retirement crisis. As the labor market shifts to the gig economy and new strains restrict social security, the American Dream of secure retirement becomes further out of reach for up to half of the population. In Waiting on Retirement, Mary Gatta takes the case of restaurant workers to examine the experiences of low-wage workers who are middle-aged, aging, and past retirement age. She deftly explores the many factors shaping what it means to grow old in economic insecurity as her subjects face race- and gender-based inequities, health hazards associated with their work, and the bitter reality that the older they get the fewer professional opportunities are available to them. More importantly, Gatta demonstrates that these problems are pervasive, as more industries adopt the worst workplace practices of service work. In light of these trends, we must consider the devastating effects on already vulnerable Americans because, as Gatta contends, this crisis does not need to be inevitable. Taking as a model the small percentage of “good” restaurant jobs that exist, she ultimately offers incisive commentary on what can be done to stave off this bleak future.

The New American Servitude: Political Belonging Among African Immigrant Home Care Workers (2019)

Coe, Cati. 2019.The New American Servitude: Political Belonging Among African Immigrant Home Care Workers. NYU Press.

pp 304.

Care for America’s growing elderly population is increasingly provided by migrants, and the demand for health care labor is only expected to grow. Because of this health care crunch and the low barriers to entry, new African immigrants have adopted elder care as a niche employment sector, funneling their friends and relatives into this occupation. However, elder care puts care workers into racialized, gendered, and age hierarchies, making it difficult for them to achieve social and economic mobility.

In The New American Servitude, Coe demonstrates how these workers often struggle to find a sense of political and social belonging. They are regularly subjected to racial insults and demonstrations of power—and effectively turned into servants—at the hands of other members of the care worker network, including clients and their relatives, agency staff, and even other care workers. Low pay, a lack of benefits, and a lack of stable employment, combined with a lack of appreciation for their efforts, often alienate them, so that many come to believe that they cannot lead valuable lives in the United States. While jobs are a means of acculturating new immigrants, African care workers don’t tend to become involved or politically active. Many plan to leave rather than putting down roots in the US.

Offering revealing insights into the dark side of a burgeoning economy, The New American Servitude carries serious implications for the future of labor and justice in the care work industry.

Interrogating the neoliberal life cycle: the limits of success (2019)

Clack, Beverley and Michele Paule (eds.). 2019. Interrogating the neoliberal life cycle: the limits of success. London: Palgrave McMillan.

pp 268.

In this timely collection, contributors from a number of disciplines discuss neoliberal visions of success, and the subsequent effects they have on the construction of the lifecycle. Frequently mentioned in popular political discourse, the notion of neoliberalism is often deployed as shorthand for the consensus that austerity is necessary and the hard-working individual can survive it. This volume unpicks and interrogates the term by engaging with the interface between the political ubiquity of neoliberal forms and its lived experience in neoliberal societies, cutting across a multiplicity of factors including gender, age, and access to education. Impressive in its wide scope and analysis, Interrogating the Neoliberal Lifecycle presents an informed discussion not only of the limits of the neoliberal paradigm but also of possible alternatives.

Rituals of Care: Karmic Politics in an Aging Thailand (2019)

Aulino, Felicity. 2019. Rituals of Care: Karmic Politics in an Aging Thailand. [Ithaca]: Cornell University Press.

pp 210

End-of-life issues are increasingly central to discussions within medical anthropology, the anthropology of political action, and the study of Buddhist philosophy and practice. Felicity Aulino’s Rituals of Care speaks directly to these important anthropological and existential conversations. Against the backdrop of global population aging and increased attention to care for the elderly, both personal and professional, Aulino challenges common presumptions about the universal nature of “caring.” The way she examines particular sets of emotional and practical ways of being with people, and their specific historical lineages, allows Aulino to show an inseparable link between forms of social organization and forms of care.

Unlike most accounts of the quotidian concerns of providing care in a rapidly aging society, Rituals of Care brings attention to corporeal processes. Moving from vivid descriptions of the embodied routines at the heart of home caregiving to depictions of care practices in more general ways—care for one’s group, care of the polity—it develops the argument that religious, social, and political structures are embodied, through habituated action, in practices of providing for others. Under the watchful treatment of Aulino, care becomes a powerful foil for understanding recent political turmoil and structural change in Thailand, proving embodied practice to be a vital vantage point for phenomenological and political analyses alike.

Reconsidering Dementia Narratives: Empathy, Identity and Care (2019)

Bitenc, Rebecca A. 2019.   Reconsidering Dementia Narratives: Empathy, Identity and Care. New York: Routledge.

pp 272.

Reconsidering Dementia Narratives explores the role of narrative in developing new ways of understanding, interacting with, and caring for people with dementia. It asks how the stories we tell about dementia – in fiction, life writing and film – both reflect and shape the way we think about this important condition.

Highlighting the need to attend to embodied and relational aspects of identity in dementia, the study further outlines ways in which narratives may contribute to dementia care, while disputing the idea that the modes of empathy fostered by narrative necessarily bring about more humane care practices. This cross-medial analysis represents an interdisciplinary approach to dementia narratives which range across auto/biography, graphic narrative, novel, film, documentary and collaborative storytelling practices. The book aims to clarify the limits and affordances of narrative, and narrative studies, in relation to an ethically driven medical humanities agenda through the use of case studies.

Answering the key question of whether dementia narratives align with or run counter to the dominant discourse of dementia as ‘loss of self’, this innovative book will be of interest to anyone interested in dementia studies, ageing studies, narrative studies in health care, and critical medical humanities.

The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and Doctor (2019)

Kleinman, A. 2019. The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor. New York: Penguin Random House.

pp 272.

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Making Meaningful Lives: Tales from and Aging Japan (2019)

Kavedžija, I. 2019. Making Meaningful Lives: Tales from and Aging Japan. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

pp 216.

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Intergenerational Contact Zones: Place-based Strategies for Promoting Social Inclusion and Belonging (2020)

Kaplan, M, Thang, L., Sanchez, M., and Hoffman, J. 2020. Intergenerational Contact Zones: Place-based Strategies for Promoting Social Inclusion and Belonging. New York: Routledge.

pp 332.

In Intergenerational Contact Zones, Kaplan, Thang, Sánchez, and Hoffman introduce novel ways of thinking, planning, and designing intergenerationally enriched environments. Filled with vivid examples of how ICZs breathe new life into communities and social practices, this important volume focuses on practical descriptions of ways in which practitioners and researchers could translate and infuse the notion of ICZ into their work.

The ICZ concept embraces generation and regeneration of community life, parks and recreational locations, educational environments, residential settings and family life, and national and international contexts for social development. With its focus on creating effective and meaningful intergenerational settings, it offers a rich how-to toolkit to help professionals and user groups as they begin to consider ways to develop, activate, and nurture intergenerational spaces.

Intergenerational Contact Zones will be essential reading for academics and researchers interested in human development, aging, and society, as well as practitioners, educators, and policy makers interested in intergenerational gathering places from an international perspective.

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Elderly Care, Intergenerational Relationships and Social Change in Rural China (2019)

Cao, F. 2019. Elderly Care, Intergenerational Relationships and Social Change in Rural China. Palgrave Macmillan.

pp 199.

Mother (2019 film, 82min)

Bilsen, Kristof. 2019. Mother. Limerick. 82min.

In a small village in Thailand, Pomm takes care of Europeans with Alzheimer’s.
Separated from her children, she helps Elisabeth during the final stages of her life, as a new patient arrives from Switzerland.

Pomm has sacrificed being close to her children in order to earn a better living, meanwhile in Switzerland a family prepares to say goodbye to their mother; a woman who has developed Alzheimer’s in her 50s.

Mother is an intimate and moving observation, that allows us to explore the struggles and expectations of motherhood and the frustrations of being unable to care for our loved ones.

As two narratives collide in this extraordinary coincidence, the powerful connection between patients and caregivers challenge our preconceptions.
Both Pomm and her patients are trying to recover the pieces of their lives that are gone, but through love and kindness they will learn to care for each other.

MANU (2018 film, 92min)

Bonmariage, Emanuelle.  2018. Manu. Clin d’oeil. 92min.

Manu Bonmariage has directed over eighty documentary films, contributing a vast body of work to the landscape of Belgian cinema and television, establishing himself as a memorable feature of the country’s wider cultural fabric. His daughter, Emmanuelle Bonmariage, is an actor, writer and artist, who makes her directorial debut with MANU. Throughout this touching and unusual take on the tradition of biopic documentaries, she takes the opportunity to explore the complex reality and contradictions of her father’s life with the same wit and humanity that have become the trademark of his own work.

Recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, we see the iconic filmmaker grant his daughter with the opportunity to interrogate his philosophy through an inherited lens. As memories from his career show signs of gradually dissipating, Manu, constantly armed with his own camera and sense of curiosity and humor, relishes the opportunity to document his own daughter’s evolution into a documentary filmmaker herself, as well as everything else around him, sometimes causing low-key chaos with his inquisitive eye.

While still filming and facing forward, he reflects on significant passages from his life, including an unexpected brush with death that still looms large over the family. In this delicate process, Manu’s memory begins to play tricks on him as the early signs of Alzheimer’s make themselves known. However, while revisiting his vast film archive and in collaboration with colleagues, family and friends, Emmanuelle begins to comprehend the nature of her father, an unusual, divergent and incredibly talented man.

At times funny and burlesque, at others deep and moving, MANU is a celebration of the wisdom and simplicity of a man, standing straight and looking at life squarely in the eye.

Edith and Eddie (2017 film, 29min)

Checkoway, Laura. Edith and Eddie. 2017. Kartemquin Films. 29 min.

Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their unusual and idyllic love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.

95 and 6 to Go (2016 film, 85min)

Takesue, Kimi. 2016. 95 and 6 to Go. New Day Films. 85min.

Filmmaker Kimi Takesue finds an unlikely collaborator while visiting her grandfather Tom in Hawai’i. A recent widower in his 90s, Tom seems content to go about his daily routines until he shows surprising interest in his granddaughter’s stalled romantic screenplay. In alternately funny and poignant discussions, Kimi’s fictional love story – and Tom’s creative revisions – serve as a vehicle for his past memories of love and loss to surface.

Shot over six years, this intimate meditation on family and absence expands the vernacular of the “home movie” to consider how history is accumulated in the everyday and how sparks of humor and creativity can animate an ordinary life.