“Anthropology Matters” for AAGE at #AAA2017

Happy New Year!

Traditional Romanian performers celebrate old age and rebirth, beauty and ugliness at the New Year

Our New Year has brought a new look for our website, but that is just the start! Over the year, we’ll be adding new member features that will help us connect with each other online and in person. While many of the resources we provide (the blog, journal) are available to everyone, maintaining this service depends in large part on our regular income through member dues, so don’t forget to renew or rejoin in 2018 and get involved in all of our activities.

Before turning to 2018, however, I want to express my thanks to everyone who participated in the AAGE/AALCIG events and panels at #AAGE2017.

Iveris Martinez at the mentoring session

AAGE held its annual business meeting at the Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington D.C. on 2 December 2017. As with past years, we held this in conjunction with our partner organization, the Anthropology of Aging and the Life Course Interest Group. These two groups also worked together to organize our first ever mentoring session at the AAA Career Expo, an exhilarating interlocutor session with Sarita Gupta, and a networking dinner with about twenty of our gathered members. Well done to everyone for your hard work!

Of course AAA is massive, and you have to choose your sessions, events and meetings wisely. By some miracle of programming, I made all of the invited and sponsored AALCIG sessions this year, including The Ends of Life: Time and meaning in the later years, organized by Iza Kavedžija (Univ of Exeter); What Does It Mean to be Vulnerable?: Exploring Health and Vulnerability among Aging Populations, organized by Sheena Nahm (New School for Public Engagements, Health Leads) and Cortney Hughes Rinker (George Mason); and even Personhood and Individual Identity in Old Age, organized by Karen L. Michaelson (and scheduled for 8am Sunday morning). Each of these sessions provided a chances not only to hear about the latest research in our field, but also to catch up with old friends, and make new connections. Well done to everyone who organzied presented at these sessions.

Of course there were other papers on aging and the life course scattered across panels as well, and I was glad I was able to see Anna Corwin’s presentation on language and care in an American convent; AAGE President-Elect Janelle Taylor’s paper on friendship and dementia; and Annette Leibing‘s presentation on a geriatric hospital in Brazil. It was wonderful to see so many AAGE members highlighting the impact of old age on how we understand cultural workings, institutions, and interpersonal dynamics in each of these papers.

Two other sessions were particularly noteworthy this year. First was a stunning double panel organized by a research group based at Aarhus University, Denmark, titled, Radical Uncertainty and the Search for the Good Life in Old Age (organized by Lotte Meinert and Lone Grøn). This panel brought a fresh perspective on age, ethics, and the human condition by combining anthropology, philosophy, and the visual arts in a seamless interdisciplinary collaboration. Inspired mainly by phenomenological and existential approaches to aging, each paper beautifully illustrated the ways lives unfold in different temporal, aesthetic and moral engagements with others in ways that afford both transcendence and violence, horizons of conjuncture and ways of being otherwise. They explored the vulnerabilities and uncertainties of old age as potentialities for finding new ways of being at home in the world.

(left to right) Sarah Lamb, Deborah Durham, Jennifer Cole, Steve Parish, Jason Danely, Aaron Seaman

The other session I want to note was a roundtable discussion organized by Elise Berman (UNC Charlotte) and myself, on Aged Subjectivities. Elise and I organized a series of blogposts in 2015-16 as a way to begin a dialogue between the anthropology of youth and old age (Collaborative Research Network on Life Course), a project which extended through the 2017 AAGE conference, and we hope will continue to reanimate discussions of age, generation, and life course more broadly within anthropology. We assembled a fantastic panel and were delighted to have a packed room for the session, which, unlike most sessions, was able to accommodate plenty of discussion. In different ways, each of us highlighted the ways subjectivity is always already aged, and yet growing up and growing older lends these aged subjectivities a dynamism that does not always find expression in the narratives and rituals that organize everyday life. As anthropologists, we can attend to both the capabilities and affordances of age as well as its potential for disruption of normative categories.

Maria Vesperi, Jay Sokolovsky and Sarita Gupta

On Friday, Sarita Gupta was our guest for the fifth special interlocutor session. Sarita co-directs Caring across Generations (with Ai Jen Poo) and is the executive director of Jobs With Justice. Sarita spoke of her own personal experience of caring for her father, as well as her inspiring advocacy on behalf of other family caregivers struggling to live and work while managing care responsibilities. While there is still a long way to go, she pointed to the success of establishing the Kupuna Caregivers Assistance Act, which provides a flat rate allowance for caregivers to give them flexibility to arrange respite care when needed. Similar programs are set to be piloted in other states, with an eventual plan to make this a national initiative. Sarita, who studied anthropology as an undergraduate, encouraged us to find opportunities to develop the impact of our work in policy and advocacy, and to bring new viewpoints and research perspectives to the public. It was the perfect pep talk for the meeting theme “Anthropology matters!”

AAGE will continue to partner with AALCIG at future AAA meetings, and we are excited to see what will be organized for next year. If you have an idea and are looking for collaborators/panelists, please feel free to use the member discussion forum and our twitter (@AAGE1978) and facebook pages to reach out to the membership. Thank you again to everyone – looking forward to seeing more of you in 2018!

Jason Danely

2 thoughts on ““Anthropology Matters” for AAGE at #AAA2017”

  1. Some ideas for AAA 2018 sessions suggested at the meeting: 1) Applied athro research + intervention, 2) Healthy Ageing and Longevity, 3) Aging in the Developing world (places often assumed to be ‘young’ populations) 4) how states employ cultural notions as they craft essentialized elder-care policies, and 5) post-human/multi-species perspectives & ethnography (e.g. robots, pets, technology) & experiences or aging and elder care
    if you have ideas, leave a comment! never too early to organize!

  2. Other suggestions for next year’s AAA were to hold more informal gatherings for people with specific research intereste (i.e. family caregivers) / Take your professor to lunch / Panels with editors or publishing press / Panels with program officers at NIH, NSI (graduate and postdoc), and to try organizing an Interest group-based member collaboration on next conference panels a la “committees” (modeled after anthropology of Education). These are all great ideas for networking both informally and formally.

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