Last updated October 6, 2020
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 (christine.verbruggen(at)kuleuven.be) 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.

Aulino, Felicity. 2019. Rituals of Care: Karmic Politics in an Aging Thailand

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.

Bauer-Maglin, Nan, ed. 2019. Widows': Words Women Write on the Experience of Grief, the First Year, the Long Haul, and Everything in Between

Bauer-Maglin, Nan, ed. 2019.  Widows’ Words Women Write on the Experience of Grief, the First Year, the Long Haul, and Everything in Between. Rutgers University Press. Price: $28,5 (Paperback)

Becoming a widow is one of the most traumatic life events that a woman can experience. Yet, as this remarkable new collection reveals, each woman responds to that trauma differently. Here, forty-three widows tell their stories, in their own words.

Some were widowed young, while others were married for decades. Some cared for their late partners through long terminal illnesses, while others lost their partners suddenly. Some had male partners, while others had female partners. Yet each of these women faced the same basic dilemma: how to go on living when a part of you is gone.

Widows’ Words is arranged chronologically, starting with stories of women preparing for their partners’ deaths, followed by the experiences of recent widows still reeling from their fresh loss, and culminating in the accounts of women who lost their partners many years ago but still experience waves of grief. Their accounts deal honestly with feelings of pain, sorrow, and despair, and yet there are also powerful expressions of strength, hope, and even joy. Whether you are a widow yourself or have simply experienced loss, you will be sure to find something moving and profound in these diverse tales of mourning, remembrance, and resilience.

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

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.

Bures, Regina M. and Nancy R. Gee. 2021. Well-being over the Life Course: Incorporating Human-animal Interactions

Bures, Regina M. and Nancy R. Gee. 2021. Well-being over the Life Course: Incorporating Human-animal Interactions. Springer International Publishing. pp. XV, 109.

This book provides a multidisciplinary overview of the impact of human–animal interaction on well-being from childhood to later life. It presents a life course perspective to the study of human–animal interaction, addressing concepts of family and the role of pets therein, as well as the impact of companion animals on child development and successful aging. This book fills a gap in the existing literature by framing the study of human–animal interaction, including the role of animal-assisted interventions on well-being, in a broader social and behavioral context.

 

Christensen, Janelle. 2018. Eldercare, Health, and Ecosyndemics in a Perilous World

Christensen, Janelle.  2018. Eldercare, Health, and Ecosyndemics in a Perilous World. Rowman and Littlefield. Price: $75 (Hardcover); $71 (e-Book).

Humans are at a unique crossroads: never before have we had such a clear understanding of how our actions affect a changing climate, or how our settlement patterns along coastal environments put us at risk of rising sea levels. However, the science behind climate change (and solutions for it) are engulfed in political controversy. Dr. Christensen uses anthropological methods to illuminate the lived experience of families caring for elder relatives during climate related events: a unique conundrum facing increasing numbers of people living in coastal areas.

As populations in industrialized countries grow older, they become more vulnerable to climate extremes. People over 65 are more likely to die in climate related events, such as heatwaves, hurricanes, and blizzards. Dr. Christensen presents the scientific evidence for climate change, the archaeological record on how humans responded to climatic shifts in the past, and explains how the current challenges are different. Using the theoretical framework of Singer’s Syndemics, she explores how aging bodies are more vulnerable to increased environmental toxins, which is further exacerbated by climate fluctuations. A central question is: how do we value our environment, our elders, and make decisions about well-being throughout the life course?

Cohan, Deborah J. 2020. Welcome to Wherever We Are: A Memory of Family, Caregiving and Redemption

Cohan, Deborah J. 2020. Welcome to Wherever We Are: A Memory of Family, Caregiving and Redemption. Rutgers University Press. Price: $26,95 (Hardcover and e-Book).

How do you go about caregiving for an ill and elderly parent with a lifelong history of abuse and control, intertwined with expressions of intense love and adoration? How do you reconcile the resulting ambivalence, fear, and anger?

Welcome to Wherever We Are is a meditation on what we hold onto, what we let go of, how we remember others and ultimately how we’re remembered. Deborah Cohan shares her story of caring for her father, a man who was simultaneously loud, gentle, loving and cruel and whose brilliant career as an advertising executive included creating slogans like “Hey, how ‘bout a nice Hawaiian punch?” Wrestling with emotional extremes that characterize abusive relationships, Cohan shows how she navigated life with a man who was at once generous and affectionate, creating magical coat pockets filled with chocolate kisses when she was a little girl, yet who was also prone to searing, vicious remarks like “You’d make my life easier if you’d commit suicide.”

In this gripping memoir, Cohan tells her unique personal story while also weaving in her expertise as a sociologist and domestic abuse counselor to address broader questions related to marriage, violence, divorce, only children, intimacy and loss. A story most of us can relate to as we reckon with past and future choices against the backdrop of complicated family dynamics, Welcome to Wherever We Are is about how we might come to live our own lives better amidst unpredictable changes through grief and healing.

Clotworthy, Amy. 2020. Empowering the Elderly? How ‘Help to Self-help’ Health Interventions Shape Ageing and Eldercare in Denmark

Clotworthy, Amy. 2020. Empowering the Elderly? How ‘Help to Self-help’ Health Interventions Shape Ageing and Eldercare in Denmark. Berlin: Transcript. pp. 266.

Health programmes that offer ‘help to self-help’ are meant to empower ageing adults to remain independent and self-sufficient at home for as long as possible. But what happens when the private home becomes a political realm in which state intervention and individual agency happen simultaneously? Based on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a Danish municipality, Amy Clotworthy describes how both health professionals and elderly citizens negotiate the political discourses about health and ageing that frame their relational encounter. By elucidating some of the conflicts, paradoxes, and negotiations that occur, she provides important insights into the contemporary organisation of eldercare.

 

Crăciun, Irina Catrinel. 2019. Positive Aging and Precarity Theory, Policy, and Social Reality within a Comparative German Context

Crăciun, Irina Catrinel. 2019. Positive Aging and Precarity Theory, Policy, and Social Reality within a Comparative German Context. Springer Publishing. Price: $106,65 (Hardcover); $85 (e-Book).

This book explores positive aging through the lens of precarity, aiming to ground positive aging theories in current social contexts. In recent years, research on aging has been branded by growing disagreements between supporters of the successful aging model and critical gerontologists who highlight the widening inequalities, disadvantages and precarity that characterize old age. This book comes to fill a gap in knowledge by offering an alternative view on positive aging, informed by precarity and its impact on projections concerning aging.

The first part of the book places aging in broader theoretical and empirical context, exploring the complex links between views on aging, successful aging theories, policy and social reality. The second part uses results from a qualitative research conducted in Germany to illustrate the dissonance between successful aging ideals and both negative and positive views on aging as well as aging preparation strategies inspired by precarity. Findings from this section provide a solid starting point for comparisons with countries that are both similar and different from Germany in terms of welfare regimes and aging policies. The final part of the book discusses the psychological implications of these findings within and beyond the German case study and outlines potential solutions for practice.

This book provides health psychologists, gerontologists, sociologists, social workers, health professionals as well as students and aging individuals themselves with better understanding of the meaning of aging in precarious times and builds confidence about aging well despite precarity.

DeJong Newendorp, Nicole. 2020. Chinese Senior Migrants and the Globalization of Retirement

DeJong Newendorp, Nicole. 2020. Chinese Senior Migrants and the Globalization of Retirement. Stanford University Press. pp 232. Price: $90 (Hardcover); $28 (Paperback).

The 21st century has seen growing numbers of seniors turning to migration in response to newfound challenges to traditional forms of retirement and old-age support, such as increased longevity, demographically aging populations, and global neoliberal trends reducing state welfare. Chinese-born migrants to the U.S. serve as an exemplary case of this trend, with 30 percent of all migrants since 1990 being at least 60 years old. This book tells their story, arguing that they demonstrate the significance of age as a mediating factor that is fundamentally important for considering how migration is experienced. The subjects of this study are situated at the crossroads of Chinese immigrant and Chinese-American experiences, embodying many of the ambiguities and paradoxes that complicate common understandings of each group. These are older individuals who have waited their whole lives to migrate to the U.S. to rejoin family but often experience unanticipated family conflict when they arrive. They are retirees living at the social and economic margins of American society who nonetheless find significant opportunities to achieve meaningful retired lifestyles. They are members of a diaspora spanning vast regional and ideological differences, yet their wellbeing hinges on everyday interactions with others in this diverse community. Their stories highlight the many possibilities for mutual engagement that connect Chinese and American ways of being and belonging in the world.

Gatta, Mary. 2018. Waiting on Retirement: Aging and Economic Insecurity in Low-Wage Work

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.

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

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.

Grenier, Amanda, Chris Phillipson and Richard A. Settersten Jr., eds. 2020. Precarity and Ageing: Understanding Insecurity and Risk in Later Life

Grenier, Amanda, Chris Phillipson and Richard A. Settersten Jr., eds. 2020. Precarity and Ageing Understanding Insecurity and Risk in Later Life (Ageing in a Global Context). Policy Press. Price: $100 (Hardcover); $33 (e-Book).

What risks and insecurities do older people face in a time of both increased longevity and widening inequality?

This edited collection develops an exciting new approach to understanding the changing cultural, economic and social circumstances facing different groups of older people. Exploring a range of topics, the chapters provide a critical review of the concept of precarity, highlighting the experiences of ageing that occur within the context of societal changes tied to declining social protection. Drawing together insights from leading voices across a range of disciplines, the book underscores the pressing need to address inequality across the life course and into later life.

Joy, Meghan. 2020. The Right to an Age-Friendly City. Redistribution, Recognition, and Senior Citizen Rights in Urban Spaces

Joy, Meghan. 2020. The Right to an Age-Friendly City. Redistribution, Recognition, and Senior Citizen Rights in Urban Spaces. Montréal: McGill Queen’s University Press. pp. 216.

Deconstructing the Age-Friendly City program and its role in promoting a right to the city for urban senior citizens.

 

A context of aging populations and urbanization has sparked a global movement to make urban spaces age-friendly. The Age-Friendly City program, developed by the World Health Organization, aims to improve local environments for all population groups, promote a positive aging identity, and empower local policy actors to support senior citizens.

Despite growing enthusiasm and policy work by local governments worldwide, considerable gaps remain. These lacunae have led scholars and activists alike to align age-friendly city work with the concept of the right to the city. In The Right to an Age-Friendly City Meghan Joy zeroes in on the intricacies of developing an environment that promotes social and spatial justice for the elderly in Toronto. Weaving together the stories, struggles, and victories of local activists, government staff, and frontline service providers, Joy maps this complex policy area and examines the ways in which age-friendly work successfully enhances senior citizens’ access to services and support in the local environment, recognizes the diverse needs of senior citizens in the city, and empowers policy actors from local government and the non-profit sector to support senior citizens.

A detailed and timely examination, The Right to an Age-Friendly City offers both broad and tangible insights into the intermingled political, economic, cultural, and administrative changes needed to protect the rights of senior citizens to access urban space in Toronto and beyond.

 

Kleinman, A. 2019. The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and Doctor

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

pp 272.

A moving memoir and an extraordinary love story that shows how an expert physician became a family caregiver and learned why care is so central to all our lives and yet is at risk in today’s world.When Dr. Arthur Kleinman, an eminent Harvard psychiatrist and social anthropologist, began caring for his wife, Joan, after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, he found just how far the act of caregiving extended beyond the boundaries of medicine. In The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor, Kleinman delivers a deeply humane and inspiring story of his life in medicine and his marriage to Joan, and he describes the practical, emotional and moral aspects of caretaking. He also writes about the problems our society faces as medical technology advances and the cost of health care soars but caring for patients no longer seems important.Caregiving is long, hard, unglamorous work–at moments joyous, more often tedious, sometimes agonizing, but it is always rich in meaning. In the face of our current political indifference and the challenge to the health care system, he emphasizes how we must ask uncomfortable questions of ourselves, and of our doctors. To give care, to be “present” for someone who needs us, and to feel and show kindness are deep emotional and moral experiences, enactments of our core values. The practice of caregiving teaches us what is most important in life, and reveals the very heart of what it is to be human.

Pasveer, Bernike, Oddgeir Synness and Ingunn Moser, eds. 2020. Ways of Home Making in Care for Later Life

Pasveer, Bernike, Oddgeir Synness and Ingunn Moser, eds. 2020. Ways of Home Making in Care for Later Life. Palgrave Macmillan. Price: $125 (Hardcover); $ 101 (e-Book).

This is a book on how home is made when care enters the lives of people as they grow old at home or in ‘homely’ institutions. Throughout the book, contributors show how home is a verb: it is something people do. Home is thus always in the making, temporal, contested, and open to negotiation and experimentation. By bringing together approaches from STS, anthropology, health humanities and health care studies, the book points to the importance of people’s tinkerings and experiments with making home, as it is here that home is being made and unmade.

 

Offers a unique and deeply interdisciplinary contribution to open up the black box of contemporary practices and theories of home-making for the elderly and in end-of-life care

Brings together for the first time authors from various disciplinary backgrounds to investigate home in care

Provides unique perspectives on ‘home’; how it must be seen and analyzed as mediated by biomedicine’s knowledges, technologies, moralities and practices, as well as by (related) cultural imaginaries of home and aging, as well as policies of managing and financing ageing

Will appeal to students and researchers from a broad variety of disciplines: from the humanities and social sciences to health sciences and design and planning studies

Salvador, Vicent and Agnese Sampietro, eds. 2020. Understanding the Discourse of Aging: A Multifaceted Perspective

Salvador, Vicent and Agnese Sampietro, eds. 2020. Understanding the Discourse of Aging: A Multifaceted Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 356.

There are a number of books and articles covering particular facets of the topic of aging, such as the image of the elderly in the media, cinema, TV series and commercials, and in literature, which of course provide useful background material and references. However, these studies on aging discourse predominantly focus on a single discipline. This book adds a fresh perspective, by addressing the communicative practices surrounding age, aging and the elderly from a multidisciplinary perspective.

The volume addresses several issues related to the discourse on aging, from the problems related to definitions of age to the image of the elderly in literature, cinema, and mass media, and gendered issues surrounding the aging process.

 

Schubert, Violeta. 2020. Modernity and the Unmaking of Men

Schubert, Violeta. 2020. Modernity and the Unmaking of Men. New York/Oxford: Berghahn. Price: $120 (Hardcover).

Responding to the renewed emphasis on the significance of village studies, this book focuses on aging bachelorhood as a site of intolerable angst when faced with rural depopulation and social precarity. Based on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork in contemporary Macedonian society, the book explores the intersections between modernity, kinship and gender. It argues that as a critical consequence of demographic rupture, changing values and societal shifts, aging bachelorhood illuminates and challenges conceptualizations of performativity and social presence.

Way, Laura. 2020. Punk, Gender and Aging

Way, Laura. 2020. Punk, Gender and Aging. Emerald Publishing Ltd. Price: $89 (Hardcover).

Punk has traditionally been theorised within cultural studies and sociology as a male-dominated subculture within which women are marginalized. In line with feminist research values and epistemologies, Punk, Gender and Ageing gives voice to a previously marginalised sample: ageing punk women.

This is the first book to focus solely on the experiences of older punk women, going beyond recent scholarship on post-youth subcultural involvement which has demonstrated a limited exploration of the interplay between age, gender and subculture. Through areas such as music and dress, the author considers how ageing punk women continue to retain punk as significant in their lives.

Making a new and exciting contribution to a still developing field, this book, combining ageing, music subcultures and gender, will appeal to both students and scholars interested in subcultures as well as those looking at the sociology of gender and ageing.

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

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.

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.

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