AAGE, with its partner orgaization the Anthropology of Aging and the Life Course Interest Group (AALCIG) will once again be holding two joint events at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Anthropology in Washington D.C. this year. The meeting will be held at the Wardman Marriot Hotel, November 28- December 3, and the theme is Anthropology Matters! We will be compiliing our annual guide to the meetings (see the 2016 guide here) so if you are an AAGE member and interested in having us advertise your panel or event, contact our AAA liasons Jay Sokolovsky or Maria Cattell. Also, if you want to keep up to date or exchange information to meet up at AAA for lunch or coffee, use our discussion forum HERE.
By Michelle Bentsman
I arrived at the AAGE conference in Oxford unsure of what to expect. I was a few thousand miles from home, standing likewise on foreign intellectual terrain. Despite my involvement in death studies, I am a comparative religion scholar in training, and I have only recently begun immersing myself in anthropology. However, any initial hesitation was quickly replaced by a mounting eagerness to engage with the ideas and conversations that swirled across our swift and brimming two-day schedule.
The first panel I attended featured fascinating work in religious anthropology and aging, providing an ideal bridge through which I stepped into the proceedings. Professor Uchibori Motomitsu of the Open University of Japan discussed the Iban longhouse communities of Malaysia, describing the practice of providing ngibun, care, to the dying. This includes the mundane, which one community member likened to “feeding a corpse,” leading into post-mortem rites conducted in the open corridor of the longhouse. Hom Shrestha of Laurentian University gave an overview of the Nepalese Bura Janko ceremony, through which the elderly are elevated to the status of gods through a series chariot rides into the divine realm. Shrestha emphasized their power to strongly increase the psychosocial well-being of seniors, urging such practices to become more widely integrated into elder-care. These papers pointed to the influence that imaginative and ritual foregrounding can have on end-of-life processes and attitudes, affirming the potential for further inquiry into aging, dying, and religion.
I was in very good company during my panel, playfully dubbed the “death panel.” Iza Kavedzija of the University of Exeter offered a meditation on gratitude in the lives of Japanese elderly, observing that in conversation, expressions of gratitude were often preceded by a space of silence. She concluded by noting that although gratitude points directionally toward the past, it is experienced in the moment, opening affective possibilities in the present. Heekyoung Kim of Seoul National University expanded on the topic of Japanese aging, discussing the methodical preparations for death undertaken by healthy Japanese adults. This, Kim explained, has the effect of transforming death into a necro-social project with a long process, rather than a singular event. Natashe Lemos Dekker of the University of Amsterdam addressed the legal limitations faced by dementia patients seeking euthanasia in the Netherlands, in which euthanasia is understood as a request rather than a right. She left open the question of whether euthanasia is sought out as an act of desperation, or as a way out of desperation. I was grateful for the enthusiastic feedback I received on my paper about the rising role of death doulas in the aging western world. In addition to having the privilege of meeting a formerly practicing death doula among the attendees, I was pushed to further investigate how such services break down across class lines and in different geographic areas.
[scholars] were immensely helpful, sharing their own experiences in the field and encouraging me to pursue my research further
In a panel focused on intergenerational dynamics, Nancy Burke of University of California, Merced, used the awe-inspiring murals of JR and Jose Parla, depicting the elderly upon crumbling facades in Cuba, to convey its changing healthcare system. These images became the backdrop–or in her Bakhtinian parlance, the chronotype–for the comments of elderly Cuban civilians, such as, “we live like slaves and we die like kings,” or, “I can see the doctor whenever I want. But once I get there, he has nothing to give me.” Fayana Richards of Michigan State University described how African American grandmothers, who often took their personal relationship with God very seriously, regarded church as a seed to be transmitted to their grandchildren. For these women, faith could provide a way out of street life by carrying the possibility of change at any moment.
In addition to some very sobering truths, the AAGE had a great deal to give us, the conference-goers. Alongside coffee-breaks, meals, and a very pleasant wine reception, I was treated to genial company and brilliant conversation. I was impressed and heartened by the scholars I spoke to, all of whom were deeply involved with the issues they studied. They were immensely helpful, sharing their own experiences in the field and encouraging me to pursue my research further. The possibility of future collaborations emerged, as well as suggestions for like-minded journals where I might pursue publication. I left with the sense of having tapped into a network of supportive and passionate people that are leveraging theory and community engagement as a means for social change.
Michelle Bentsman is currently an M.Div. candidate at Harvard Divinity School. Her areas of focus include end-of-life care, ideologies of death and dying, and comparative religion, with a particular emphasis on Judaism and Hinduism. She has worked in a north Indian hospice, where she collaborated with doctors, nurses, and volunteers to develop a spiritual care program, as well as served with an NYC Chevra Kadisha (Jewish burial society). She recently co-published an article on embodiment and the unknown in the Performance Research Journal.
By Gina Crivello
Every time I attend an anthropology conference it feels as if I’m returning to a piece of home, having worked for the past fifteen years in the multi-disciplinary field of International Development and during which time I have been just as likely to collaborate with economists as with anthropologists. Concepts like ‘kinship’, ‘culture’, ‘affinity’ and ‘relatedness’ might slide easily off the tongue in an anthropological discussion of care, but I have learned to not take such discussions for granted. Continue reading
AAGE was well represented at the Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, held this year in Santa Fe, NM.
One of the highlights was the AAGE networking breakfast, which provided an intimate social setting to discuss professional issues such as teaching and publishing.
Thanks to Sherri Briller and Jay Sokolovsky for organizing this event and all of the attendees for making it a success!
all photographs taken by Jay Sokolovsky. Do not copy or reuse without permission Continue reading
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!
Find out more about the conference
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
Congratulations to Wendy Bartlo, who successfully defended her dissertation “‘I can see my values in places’: relationships, place, and growing old in Detroit” and will graduate from the Anthropology Department at Wayne State University in December. Not missing a beat, Wendy has joined the Center on Health, Aging, and Disability in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign as Proposal Development and Outreach Specialist. Well done Wendy!
And another congratulations to long-standing AAGE member Margaret “Peggy” Perkinson, who will be Associate Professor and Director of the Center on Aging at University of Hawaii at Manoa starting January 1, 2017 (I am still waiting for the invite to the New Year’s luau party Peggy).
I am sure that there are many more AAGE members with good news that deserve some recognition and hearty applause, and I promise I will toast all of you at the AAGE dinner at #AAA2016!
Every 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 members get big discounts on the conference registration fees, which include lunch and tea/coffee for two days of papers, workshops and keynotes.
Be sure to include your name and email when you register so that we can confirm your payment.
Abstract submission for papers, posters, organized panels or other event ideas (to fit within a 1.5 hour time slot) should be sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words. Include contact information with your submission.We are particularly interested in submissions that address the theme of “Culture, Commitment and Care across the Life Course,” but any submissions related to aging and anthropology will be considered.
The deadline for abstracts is December 15, 2016, so don’t delay!
AAGE members do exceptional things, and as part of a regular monthly feature of getting to know our members, this section will highlight their latest achievements. If you’d like us to include your news in the next post, you can email them to us at email@example.com, including “AAGE member news” in the subject line. Also, if you are interested in being part of the member news team, please let us know!
The member news team (that would be me) have been taking a well-earned summer holiday, but it seems that all of you have not. You just keep on working, writing, presenting and stacking up your achievements. Well, we’ve dusted off the pom-poms and ready to cheer for all of your successes! Here’s a start: Continue reading