Tag Archives: dementia

VITAL postdoctoral research fellowship in social studies of medicine: “Associating dementia”

“Associating dementia” (39.5 months from 15 August 2016)

This is an exciting opportunity to join a new research team that will carry out collaborative ethnographic research on the making of quality of life; based in one of Europe’s most vibrant Anthropology departments at the University of Copenhagen and living in one of the world’s best cities. The research project “The Vitality of Disease – Quality of Life in the Making” (VITAL) is hiring a postdoc to commence duties in summer 2016. Funded by the European Research Council, the candidate will contribute to the overall objectives of VITAL (http://vital.ku.dk/) by carrying out an independent ethnographic study within a predefined problem field. The country and concrete site of the study will depend on the candidate and should be outlined in detail in the application. There are no geographic limitations, and while a strong effort will be made to have a diversity of project countries and sites, the strongest candidate will be offered the position. VITAL postdocs will play a crucial role in the conceptual and methodological innovations required by the project as a collective endeavour. Candidates must hold a PhD degree in anthropology, sociology or science studies. Experience with social studies of medicine is preferred.

Read more and apply here: http://employment.ku.dk/faculty/?show=800790

Application deadline: 4 April 2016 (at 12:00 PM Danish Time)

Anthropology & Aging Vol.36 no.1


link to the issue

The June 2015 issue of Anthropology & Aging features the latest commentaries, articles, and reviews, available free now through our open-access agreement. In addition to our usual content, this issue includes a commentary/response format first introduced in the special issue on the body (33.3) and reintroduced in this issue by Maruta Vitols and Caitrin Lynch’s piece on representations of aging in films and a reflective response by A&A co-editor Philip Kao. Stephanie May de Montigny’s Portfolio continues this discussion of performance, narrative, and creativity on the stage. We hope these contributions spark more interest and interaction here on our blog as well as in cafes and classrooms everywhere!

Every issue of Anthropology & Aging that we produce depends on the skills and time volunteered by our editorial staff, our board, peer reviewers, and digital publishing support. This issue is especially exciting because also it showcases the work happening across the Association of Anthropology and Gerontology—from supporting student work with the Margaret Clark Award, to the international conference held last February.

Anthropology & Aging 36(1) begins with an commentary adapted from the keynote address delivered by past International President of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders  (MSF), Dr. Unni Karunakara at the 2015 AAGE Conference on “Health Disparities in Aging” hosted by Florida International University. Dr. Karunakara writes from the front lines of global public health and humanitarian response, and his evaluation of the recognition (or lack thereof) of the important roles of older people in high risk, post-disaster circumstances reveals the need to rethink how aid organizations are held accountable for including older adults as a priority in their work.

In addition to Dr. Karunakara’s Keynote, the AAGE conference also provided a chance for our organization to support student research and professionalization. One of our banner activities in this regard has been the awarding of the Margaret Clark award for student papers. In 2014 AAGE awarded two Margaret Clark Awards, one at the graduate level (Ben Kasstan, Durham University), and another at the undergraduate level (Lilly Lerer, University of Chicago). The awardees both revised their papers into articles and braved the peer-review process to be accepted for publication in A&A. Ben Kasstan’s article focuses on the voices and experiences of Shoah survivors at a UK day center mediate their experiences of past trauma by incorporating elements of Judaism, literally through food and memory. Lilly Lerer’s article is a sensitive and intimate account of her fieldwork with hospice patients and staff as they mutually embody a temporality of ‘slow care’ that contrasts with the efficient and cure-centered care of the biomedical end of life settings.

Care is a theme running throughout this issue, and, as the authors note, throughout current discussions of doing anthropology in the Anthropocene. Two additional articles in this issue take up the theme of care for older adults. Iza Kavedžija’s ethnographically rich depiction of community care in urban Japan looks at the co-productions of categories of ‘elderly’ and ‘carer’ as individuals move through various care settings, employing symbolic and linguistic cues that mark roles and relationships along a spectrum of social potentialities. Fetterolf, a student member of AAGE, examines healing in Alzheimer’s care in the US, adopting a case study approach, proposing that close attention to personhood creates ‘bridges’ to providing better care.

Enjoy this issue and we look forward to bringing you our next special issue on “Aging the Technoscape” in the Fall. CFP is still open until June 30 for this issue, and general submissions on other topics are always welcome!

AAGE interview with anthropologist Margaret Lock


Photo courtesy of Owen Egan


It is quite rare that debates about ageing take center stage in anthropology. As part of a new endeavor by AAGE we invite influential anthropologists to reflect on their experiences studying ageing, and to offer their views on possible futures for the field.
One scholar who has pushed our subject matter within and beyond its boundaries is Margaret Lock. Currently, Lock is the Marjorie Bronfman professor emerita at McGill University where she established the medical anthropology programme. She has published over 2oo articles and 17 books and won numerous prizes for these publications.

Last year, Margaret Lock published a new book entitled ‘The Alzheimer Conundrum: Entanglements of Aging and Dementia’ at Princeton University Press. During our interview, Lock explained how she initially started her project as a quest to understand the impact of genetic susceptibility tests on individuals, and had the good fortune of being able to follow a randomized clinical trial (RCT) in which offspring were told about their genetic susceptibility to Alzheimer disease. As it turned out, to fully understand the contribution of genetics to AD and the experiences of these tested individuals, she needed to study the concept of the disease itself. Her book has had a strong impact outside our discipline, receiving reviews in Nature, the Lancet Neurology and the New Scientist.

Part of Lock’s success can be explained by the topics she approaches, but it is also attributable to her capability to cross disciplinary divides. Lock explains that for anthropologists, it is essential to study diverse perspectives on the issue at hand. When teaching, she emphasizes that ‘if we want to do medical anthropology as best as we can, then it is important to grasp the fundamentals of the specific scientific or medical issue with which one is dealing’ in an interdisciplinary way. But, of course, anthropologists should inevitably incorporate ethnography into their project, whatever the subject matter – no other discipline will do this as we do.


Read the review of “The Alzheimer Conundrum” from the anthropology and medicine blog Somatosphere, by AAGE member Aaron Seaman

Her own engagement with ageing started with her outstanding work on menopause in Japan, where at that time no such research had been conducted before. She herself ‘fell into it sideways’ as she explained, influenced by work already going on in North America. During her career she has been inspired by numerous scholars but she was hard-pressed to come up with only one name; her formative period in anthropology was influenced by Geertz, Sahlins, Colson, Benedict, Mead, and later, scholars such as Haraway, Latour, Strathern, Allan Young, and Hacking. Moreover, having a biology background herself, she has always been attracted to think across the divide of biological and cultural anthropology, even though she remains firmly grounded in cultural anthropology. Nevertheless, already in preparation for her study in Japan she had become aware that medical anthropological literature had paid little attention to later life.

During our interview, she hypothesized that this might be related to our own anxieties about the ageing process, resulting in an avoidance of a confrontation with ageing as ‘we tend perhaps, not self-consciously, but unconsciously to be scared of the very idea of ageing’.

The task for anthropologists in the future is therefore not only to incorporate an anthropology of ageing into the wider discipline, but also for anthropologists working on ageing to cross the sub-disciplinary divides to make the relevance of our analyses known and to ensure a wider familiarity with our findings. This is a task, she proposed, that is set for the whole of anthropology in which geographical clusters and sub-disciplinary groups too often prevent analyses that go beyond their respective boundaries. Crossing these boundaries by communicating with media outside of mainstream academia is one arena that she anticipated as an essential direction for our discipline to take. I could not agree with her more, as we ourselves are responsible for making known the relevance of our discipline and findings, although perhaps I am a bit biased having a position at a multidisciplinary knowledge institute and in a medical faculty myself.

Lock has certainly been successful in this task of disseminating findings, and has published in journals with various backgrounds from anthropology to medicine, from law to epidemiology. Her advice for this kind of versatility and high productivity? Teaching students with a variety of backgrounds: “I learned a huge amount just simply by teaching to mixed classes not simply of anthropology students or even social science students, but that included basic scientists, would-be medical students, and so on”. This experience, repeated over many years, pushed Lock into taking a broader approach by showing her different ways of tackling subjects and of presenting them. One result has been the varied list of journals in which she has published to date. Her own commitment to showing the relevance of anthropology will certainly be taken a step further in the near future, as she is currently working on a popular scientific book on epigenetics with her co-author Gisli Paulson, to be published by Polity press. Given her track record so far, this is something to look out for!

Additional Links

Medical Anthropology programme McGill

A youtube movie of an interview with Margaret Lock about the Alzheimer Conundrum at the Agenda, TVO, the television broadcast of Ontario.

This entry is based on an interview conducted with Margaret Lock on 12 June 2014 by the Jolanda Lindenberg, AAGE member and Scientific Staff at the Leyden Academy, Netherlands

New Book: UNFORGOTTEN Love and the Culture of Dementia Care in India Bianca Brijnath

UNFORGOTTEN: Love and the Culture of Dementia Care in IndiaBrijnathUnforgotten
Bianca Brijnath

Announcing Volume 2, Life Course, Culture and Aging: Global Transformations series edited by Jay Sokolovsky in cooperation with AAGE. Bianca Brijnath’s first book, “Unforgotten: Love and Culture of Dementia Care in India” is due for release in July 2014. Here is what readers are saying:

This is a superb study, one of the most exciting, original, perceptive and engrossing books I have read in India studies and aging studies in some time…One of the most attractive features of it is its eloquent, often poetic, writing style that draws the reader in from the first pages through to the end.”  ·  Sarah Lamb, Brandeis University

“…a deeply humane account of the disparate experiences of middle class Indian families in Delhi–in their homes, public spaces and medical facilities–as they care for older family members with dementia. The gender, class and health inequities of daily life and the cultural ideal of seva (respect and service to family elders) resonate through these experiences of hope and despair, love and frustration, stigma and silence.”  ·  Maria G. Cattell, The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

As life expectancy increases in India, the number of people living with dementia will also rise. Yet little is known about how people in India cope with dementia, how relationships and identities change through illness and loss. In addressing this question, this book offers a rich ethnographic account of how middle-class families in urban India care for their relatives with dementia. From the husband who wakes up at 3 am to feed his wife ice-cream to the daughters who gave up employment for seven years to care for their mother with dementia, this book illuminates the local idioms on dementia and aging, the personal experience of care-giving, the functioning of stigma in daily life, and the social and cultural barriers in accessing support.

Bianca Brijnath is a NHMRC Early Career Fellow in the Department of General Practice, Monash University, Australia. She is a researcher in medical anthropology, public health and primary health care. Her areas of interest include cross-cultural meanings of mental health and care and her field sites include India and Australia. This is her first book.



Chapter 1. Methods and Character Building
Chapter 2. The Diagnostic Process
Chapter 3. Therapeutics and Health Seeking
Chapter 4. The Economies of Care
Chapter 5. Alzheimer’s and the Indian Appetite
Chapter 6. Stigma and Loneliness in Care
Chapter 7. The Journey to Silence

Conclusion: ‘This is the Time for Romance’

Purchase this book here: http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title.php?rowtag=BrijnathUnforgotten