My name is Magdalena Zegarra Chiappori, and I am a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at The University of Michigan. I am from Lima, Peru, where I conducted my doctoral fieldwork at a shelter for the elderly abandoned. My scholarly interests include economies of care, old age, intimacy and affect theory, social abandonment, and living and dying in precarious settings. Before studying Anthropology, I did a Master in Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School and completed my bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Literature, at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
What made you interested in the study of aging and/or the life course?
My interest in the study of aging and the life course was, to a greater extent, shaped through my family background. During the winter of 2011 my grandfather was diagnosed as terminally ill and my mother took on the responsibility for his care. His condition forced me to witness how illness affects every aspect of the lives of those involved. Being aware that my grandfather had us—his family—to provide care, I became deeply interested in knowing how Lima’s elderly poor lived through old age and family abandonment.
What is an article, book, or other work that has made an impact on how you think about aging and your research?
I can think of two authors who have inspired my work. The first one is Janelle Taylor, with her article “On Recognition, Caring, and Dementia.” The other person is Anne Allison. She has several articles and a fascinating book—Precarious Japan—where she documents how the elderly die in social abandonment in today’s Japan. This scholarship has nurtured my own work and way of doing ethnography because they have, basically, delineated one of my main interests when researching old age: How is care provided in precarious settings?
What do you do when you are not doing aging/life course research?
When I am not doing research, I am doing Pilates, playing and resting with my three beautiful cats, and spending time with my family, especially with my nephews. We usually go every afternoon to the park so my eldest nephew Alvarito can learn to ride his bicycle. I also go for long walks around my neighborhood and watch Netflix.
Do you have a recent publication so that our members can learn more about your work?
Yes. About a month ago, I published an article with Anthropology and Humanism. It is called “Remaining, Vital Acts, and Possibility: The Exercise of “Sustaining Oneself” in a Residential Care Center for the Elderly in Lima, Peru.” It draws from my doctoral research, and in it I explore the ways in which older adults from the shelter where I did fieldwork find ways to make sense of life when everything has been lost: family, friends, job security, rights, and affection. Here is the link: https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/anhu.12385
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