What commitments and cares connect generations? #AAGE2017

The 10th Biennial AAGE Conference, “Culture, Commitment and Care across the Life Course” brought together over 100 participants from 15 different countries for two days of research presentations, workshops, and keynote lectures. We opened on June 8th, as UK citizens were voting in a snap election that would proclaim their commitment to education, social care, housing security and tolerance. Whereas the Brexit vote one year earlier seemed to push generations and their values further apart, the results of the snap election showed a broader support for the Labour Party across age groups, and perhaps a rejection of the kind of misguided policies that would take school lunches from children and issue a #dementiatax on the old.

So there couldn’t be a better time to talk about the ways our commitments to values and aspirations are linked to our experience of generation and the life course.

For the first ever AAGE conference to be held in Europe, this enthusiastic turnout exceeded my expectations, and I was thrilled to meet so many students and scholars for the first time. I was so impressed, in fact, that I quickly put together a proposal to establish a new research network of the European Association of Social Anthropology so that we could continue to stay in touch and hold conferences even when AAGE’s Biennial moves back across the pond.

One of the keys to the success was our partnership with ACYIG, represented by my unflappable co-organizer Patrick Alexander. ACYIG has been a fantastic supporter of AAGE through the Collaborative Research Network on the Life Course. Through the CRN, we’ve organized a blog exchange and organized panels for #AAA2017 focused on how age is situated within the life course. One of the classic anthropological works on culture and the life course is Mead’s ‘Culture and Commitment’, and when Mead’s daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson agreed to fly over as a keynote speaker, it felt like we really had a conference worth shouting about.

And you heard. While I can’t possibly summarize all 16 panels (73 papers!) presented, as you can imagine, there were several on inter-generational relationships, kinship and community and many more on the ways global and local politics of care bring youth and age into closer affinity. The life-course perspective meant grappling with the ways personal and historical change intersect, how mobility, precarity and hopes might be shaped by generational patterns as well as changes in life-course trajectories. Alone, telling such a complex story would be formidable, but together, I could see how each of the conference presenters contributed some unique piece of the puzzle.

Apart from the papers, the conference included a workshop on ageing in Sub-Saharan Africa by Jaco Hoffman of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing and another on research on children and development by Young Lives. These workshops were mainly aimed at presenting outward facing research aimed at contributing to public policy. Nearly half of the presenters at the conference were PhD students or recent graduates, and these workshops helped them consider the ways our research can have impact and the kinds of opportunities that are available outside of academia.

AAGE President Jason Danely introducing Mary Catherine Bateson on Day 1

Finally, we were treated to two wonderful keynote presentations, both of which drew out the fundamental importance of inter-generational life-course interactions. Mary Catherine Bateson spoke of the importance of learning from each other and the joys of being depending on each other at every age. She spoke of how infants and children teach adults how to be better carers, and how older adults can offer perspectives to the young. Pia Christensen told stories of ‘wonder’ that arise when we listen and pay attention to the worlds of children. I felt that much of what she said could easily be applied to our thinking about old age as well, and how aging societies might provide new chances for reflecting on the values and commitments that are most important to our shared future.

ACYIG Board Member Patrick Alexander introduces Pia Christensen on Day 2

What’s next?

Over the last 20 years, anthropology of aging and of youth has produced an impressive body of research that recognizes the agency and influence that people of all ages have on culture and society. As ethnographers who strive to bring a more holistic perspective of human relationships to our work, it seems that the next step is to try to understand the life course inter-generational interactions. What kinds of care are given or received across the life course? Are there commitments that cross generations? What do different ages bring to our understanding of the role of commitment in social and political change?

These are questions that can’t easily be solved by looking at only a narrow slice of the life course or one demographic group within a multi-generational society. The connections made at AAGE 2017 between the themes and ideas of presenters doing work at different ends of the life course presented an exciting challenge, both intellectually and empirically, and I hope AAGE and ACYIG will continue to work together in the future to strengthen our common interest in the life course. With the establishment of a formal network within the European Association of Social Anthropology (coming soon!) and organized panels ready for AAA 2017, we hope to keep up the momentum started in Oxford.

Thank you again to everyone who made the conference a success and to all of the presenters and chairs. I encourage all of you stay in contact with people you met at AAGE2017 and stay tuned for AAGE2019!

Where were the anthropologists? Report on the 9th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology

One of the most surprising moments of the 9th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology (also the first ENAS/NANAS Joint Conference and the 3rd ENAS Conference) was when Plenary Panelist Stephen Katz asked the audience members to hold up a hand if they had a degree in ‘Gerontology’. I twisted in my seat to get a better look across the crowd but I only saw about a half-dozen hesitant arms poking out of the full lecture hall. The point Katz was making was that ‘cultural gerontology’ remains an assemblage of different discipline-based concepts and methodologies. Even after all these years, the infrastructure hasn’t emerged that could establish the key concerns, questions and concepts that social science and humanities scholars call ‘gerontology’. Continue reading

New Publications Spotlight: Translating anthropology to medical practice

For a list of all new publications from the first quarter of 2017, click here

At the closure of this new quarter we have tried to trace the articles published by members and non-members again. The sheer number of articles identified alone already testify to the relevance of our topic of interest. In this post about the last quarter, I again highlight two articles that discuss related topics. The first is an article published by, among others, fellow AAGE member Lynette Leidy Seivert about the experience of hot flashes among Mayan and non-Mayan women in Campeche state, Mexico (Huicochea-Gómez et al. 2017). The second concerns an article published by Kaitrin M. Jacklin and co-authors (Jacklin et al. 2016) about the experiences of indigenous people with Diabetes type II with Canadian health care. Continue reading

Register today for the 10th Biennial Conference in Oxford!

Elders crossing sign in Oxford

Thank you to all of those who have taken the time to register for our conference in Oxford (8-9 June, 2017). If you haven’t already registered, you can do so here.

In order to put together our program in a timely manner, we ask that all of those with accepted papers register before April 1. You can still register after this date, but refunds will no longer be available. NOTE: Those who register too close to the conference risk not being listed in the conference program!

AAGE and ACYIG members get big discounts, so it may be worth signing up for a membership while you are at it! Of course, those not presenting a paper are welcome to register and come along.

In keeping with the theme of connecting anthropology from across the life course, there will be two workshops held on 8 June afternoon. One will be organized by the Young Lives team, who will introduce their large-scale multi-country research project coordinated by the Department of International Development, University of Oxford. Another will be organized by the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, and will showcase their work combining a wide range of research and policy oriented work. Both of these are excellent opportunities for students to become more informed about the kind of research paths available. We’ll be posting more information on all of that very soon, so keep checking in!

Register now for the conference

Find out more about the conference

Discuss  the conference with other AAGE members

 

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

Thinking back to #AAA2016, and forward to #AAA2017!

If you weren’t lucky enough to be at #AAA2016 “Evidence, Accident, Discovery,” you may have missed not only one of the coldest AAA meetings on record (seriously, we had a blizzard), but in many ways one of the more surreal, as a new President had been elected only a week earlier, with huge looming implications for many of the people we work with. Now, the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association is a massive event and stimulation overload to begin with, but 2016 had the added element of thousands of mourners all at different stages in the grieving process (denial, anger, bargaining, depression). For me, I couldn’t be more grateful that to be in a convention center with like-minded people who care about things like climate change and indigenous rights, care of immigrants and refugees, justice for victims of violence, dignity for the disabled and for women and for older people. I was hardly alone in feeling proud to be part of an organization that so quickly responded to the new political climate where our discipline, as one that has long defended tolerance and empathy, is directly under threat. Not only did the executive board swiftly issue official statements, and dedicate an issue of Anthropology News to work on anthropologist activism, but many sections like the Society for Psychological Anthropology have started their own advocacy networks to organize and affect policy issues.
Next year, AAA will rumble up to the seat of power, Washington DC, and we’ll see what a year of organizing can produce (I’m guessing more than just some nice powerpoint slides).

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Dismantling a Bedroom of Youth

How Space and Material Culture Mediate the Life Course

photo by author. do not use without permission.

I am currently conducting anthropological fieldwork in New York City, studying young adults at the end of higher education as they consider their options for the future. The project is longitudinal, asking how youth culture changes through the transitions between university and work. Shortly before my departure, however, I had to let go of the bedroom in London (in the pictures) which I had called home between the ages of five and twenty-five. “Letting go” involved an unpleasant practical process of packing the walls and objects into boxes, as well as a more tacit, ongoing process of separation. With the research themes in mind, I reflect here on the meanings involved in constructing, adapting, and eventually dismantling the room across two decades. The example is used to demonstrate how space and material culture can serve to symbolically construct experiences of age and more implicitly, shape outlooks on the future. This is an argument that could be expanded to a range of contexts across the life course. Ekerdt et. al. 2004 on disbandment in later life].

the room also served as a site to reconfigure selected aspects of the past into an emergent adult identity

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Recent publications in review

In the last quarter of 2016, we have identified about 60 articles published at the crossroads of anthropology and gerontology. AAGE members published no less than a quarter of those articles, attesting to the prolific activity in this group. This periodical update of recent publications will be a regular feature of AAGE, and each update will be supplemented by a brief commentary that elaborates on a couple of the member contributions.

While all of these contributions deserve a read for those of us interested in the state of the field, for this post I want to highlight just two articles, both of which discuss the role of social engagement and how it relates to successful aging.

linguistic strategies in intergenerational communication can enhance well-being

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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 aagepresident@anthropologyandgerontology.com, 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

Happy New Year from AAGE! Five resolutions for 2017

For many of us (including me) the new year means time to pay AAGE dues. That means a little reflection on what AAGE was worth to me last year, and what I can contribute to it (aside from dues) in the coming year. (If you want to renew now, click here!)

Let’s start with the changes. AAGE website users will notice that we have made some changes to our look. In order to improve the security features of the site, we have adopted a simplified design, but we are not stopping here. We are about to embark on a much larger redesign that will make the site the hub of our activities between workshops and conferences. Look forward to future improvements to member-only section, including information on jobs, grants, and teaching (syllabi, activities, other resources) most relevant to our members.

Unless you are a website designer, you may feel like you’d rather contribute to AAGE in a different way. You might submit your article to our journal, or conference, you might consider writing a post (or series of posts) for our evolving site.

If you are a member, and you need a New Year’s resolution (or five), here are some ideas for how to contribute to AAGE in 2017: Continue reading