Narratives and Counter Narratives of Aging and Old Age: Reflexivity in Aging Studies (Online conference)
Sept 28 – Oct 1, 2022 (New date!)
Organized by Loredana Ivan from the Center for Research in Communication (CRC) and her team at the College of Communication and Public Relations, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA)
Narrative’ is a travelling concept (Mieke Bal, 2002) that is also used by scholars collaborating in the field of Aging Studies. A ‘cultural force to be reckoned with’ (Bal, 2010:10), it is alive and active in the humanities and arts as well as in the social sciences. As Aging Studies scholars rooted in different disciplines, we examine the experience of aging through stories of others, real or imagined, stories that link us to our own aging. Such narratives include life stories and other first-person accounts as well as all sorts of cultural representations including literature, film, photography and other modes of representation that also narrate – such as numbers and figures in surveys, algorithms, and big data. Bringing together the multiplicity of understandings of what master narratives and counter-narratives of age and aging mean to us, this conference aims at looking at the different interpretations in order to discuss what narrative as a transdisciplinary mode can actually do. This conference will ask scholars to contribute with their understanding and analysis of ‘narrative’ to facilitate discussion on theoretical and methodological approaches. Together, we aim at challenging some of the prevalent perspectives on aging and old age such as the continuation of seeing aging as a social problem, or the old master narrative of frailty and dependency. What is the power of narrative in encouraging new perspectives focusing on older people’s diversity, their value to, and their role in society? As aging is the future for all of us, the conference will provide a ground for more appreciative perspectives on aging and later life created through the reflection on and challenge of existing structures.
Conference website: http://enas.comunicare.ro/
Download the program: http://enas.comunicare.ro/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Conference-Programme-ENASNANAS-Bucharest-2022_with_links.pdf
Online ENAS Jubilee Event 2021
ENAS 10th Anniversary: Looking Back and Forward
Ten years ago, the European Network in Aging Studies was inaugurated in Maastricht. To mark the network’s jubilee and to celebrate a decade of collaboration, collegiality, and friendship, we invite you to an online event that takes place October 8, 2021, 16.00 (CEST).
The schedule of the event looks as follows:
• Welcome (5-10 min)
• Speaker 1 (30 min): Liz Barry (University of Warwick)
• Break-out rooms of 5 people in which we give people a few targeted questions about the future of aging studies that we later use to reformulate our mission on the website (15-20 min)
• Speaker 2 (30 min): Anita Wohlmann (University of Southern Denmark)
• “Toastimonials” and closing (10-15 min)
Call for Abstracts (All submissions open June 15, 2018).
Researchers, writers and scholars from all disciplines and in all stages of their careers are invited to submit proposals for panels, posters, and papers that offer diverse approaches to conventional fields of gerontology and critical aging studies, new insights into assumed styles of life and thought, imaginative reflections on the meanings and representations of aging, challenging perspectives from cross-cultural and global experience, and activist strategies to take back aging from those powers and practices that relegate it to the margins of social existence and citizenship.
About the Second Joint Conference of ENAS and NANAS
Held at Trent University in Peterborough, Canada, Take Back Aging: Power, Critique, Imagination is the second joint conference organized by ENAS and NANAS that invites researchers, writers, and scholars from all disciplines and at every career stage to share their diverse approaches to conventional fields of gerontology and critical aging studies. We wish to encourage new insights into assumed styles of life and thought, imaginative reflections on the meanings and representations of aging, challenging perspectives from cross-cultural and global experience, and activist strategies to take back aging from those powers and practices that relegate it to the margins of social existence and citizenship.
Organized over four days in May, 2019, we welcome you to explore our beautiful campus, enjoy the vibrancy of our city and forge lasting connections with colleagues from all corners of the academy.
Go to www.trentaging2019.com for all the details.
Cultural Narratives, Processes and Strategies in Representations of Age and Aging
3rd ENAS Conference
1st Joint ENAS & NANAS Conference
9th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology
University of Graz / Austria, April 27-30, 2017
Conveners: Josephine Dolan, Ricca Edmondson, Abigail Gardner, Ros Jennings, Ulla Kriebernegg, Roberta Maierhofer, Kate de Medeiros, Barbara Ratzenböck, Aagje Swinnen, Oana Ursulesku
The AgingGraz2017 conference, held between April 27th and April 30th 2017, was organized jointly by the European Network in Aging Studies and the North American Network in Aging Studies, at the University of Graz and the Medical University of Graz, Austria. This was the 3rd ENAS Conference, the 1st Joint ENAS & NANAS Conference, and the 9th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology, as well as one of the biggest academic events in the field of Aging Studies since its beginnings in academia in the 1990s.
The conference language was English, and there were more than 300 participants from six continents: academics and researchers from over 120 universities, artists, independent researchers, and students, who looked at the emerging fields of Aging Studies and Cultural Gerontology from the aspects of different academic disciplines – anthropology, economics, history, language and literature, media studies, medicine, philosophy, politics, psychology, theology, sociology, and many more.
The conference was organized within the research project “Cultural Narratives, Processes and Strategies in Urban and Regional Representations of Age and Aging” a 3-year project funded by the Austrian National Bank (Anniversary Fund, project number: 15849). Furthermore, the sponsors and collaborators were: the Government of Styria, the Aging+Communication+Technologies Project (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, project number: 895-2013-1018), the Women, Ageing, Media Research Group (University of Gloucestershire, and the SIforAge Project.
The conference program was organized into four days of panel presentations (the total number of panels was 55), three keynote speeches, and one panel discussion. All the panels provoked lively discussions and aroused new possibilities of both collaboration and publication, although the panels were purposefully assembled in such a way as to reflect the need for interdisciplinarity and dialogue, which means that some of the panels contained presentations from very different disciplines and scientific approaches.
ENAS Keynote Lecture – David J. Ekerdt, University of Kansas: Aging in a World of Things (Thursday, April 27th, 9.30)
NANAS Keynote Lecture – Jane Gallop, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee: The Phallus and its Temporalities: Sexuality, Disability and Aging (Friday, April 28th, 11.00)
ACT Keynote Lecture – Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Brandeis University: Ageism: The Attacks, the Hurt, The Opposition (Saturday, April 29th, 11.00)
Prof. Gullette’s Declaration of Grievances:
Plenary Panel Discussion – Lives and Ideas: Reflecting Voices from Age/ing Studies (Thomas R. Cole, University of Texas; Roberta Maierhofer, University of Graz; Stephen Katz, Trent University), with a moderation by Barbara Ratzenböck (Friday, April 28th, 15.30)
Throughout the conference, participants could also see the works of artist Alex Rotas, based in the UK, at an exhibition entitled “Documenting the active aging body: from elite athletes to the less mobile.” The photographs of athletes aged between 60 and 100, who still actively participate in national and international contests, in the sport disciplines they love, were exhibited in the foyer of the venue.
The AgingGraz2017 conference brought together the most prominent, as well as emerging scholars in the field of Aging Studies. One of the greatest outcomes of this event is the establishing of contacts between the various national and/or continental schools of thought in this field: through the collaboration for this event of the European Network of Aging Studies and the North American Network in Aging Studies, an agreement was reached to hold biannual conferences in the field of Aging Studies alternating between North America and Europe.
MEANING AND CULTURE(S): EXPLORING THE LIFE COURSE
8th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology
2nd Conference of the European Network in Aging Studies (ENAS)
National University of Ireland, Galway,10-12 April 2014
Conveners: Ricca Edmondson and Tom Scharf (School of Political Science and Sociology / Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, National University of Ireland, Galway)
Research into the life course and ageing is an interdisciplinary enterprise in which the study of culture and of cultures has become key, allowing gerontologists from a multitude of disciplines to detect and critique myths that denigrate older age or portray later life as essentially a time of dependency and decay.
This Conference aims to deepen empirical, theoretical and reflective approaches to the field of cultural gerontology. It will explore ways in which practices and interpretations shape the experience of ageing, making its impacts more or less habitable and offering resources that human beings can shape and change. The creation and experience of meaning during the life course is a central feature of this topic. Equally, it will be important to challenge social processes connected with ageing that promote exclusion and inequality, and the narratives that support or excuse them.
Cultural gerontology reveals and dissects culturally-determined perceptions, attitudes and effects of human ageing that are not accentuated within other disciplinary approaches. The term ‘culture’ does not entail ignoring economic, social, political and other impacts on ageing, but the study of culture – with its multiplicity of forms – enhances our interrogation of both individual and social choices and constraints connected with ageing. It also explores, for example, the cultural means that can help people and groups to respond to the pressures and opportunities they encounter as they age. It analyses expectations and practices that can help ageing adults to exercise power and resist it, to confront obstacles or sometimes to create them, and to make their lives meaningful both to themselves and to others. The arts, humanities and social sciences thus have a fundamental role to play in the study of human ageing and form an invaluable complement to other areas of gerontological research.
The Conference will thus welcome research into the process of ageing in its diverse cultural and social manifestations. It will promote discussion of the human ageing process from both interdisciplinary and disciplinary perspectives, including those of anthropology, economics, history, language, literature, the study of the (mass) media, philosophy, politics, psychology, religion, and sociology. In particular, it will welcome research that investigates the different concepts and methods used in multiple disciplines as they attempt to respond to the challenges of ageing.
Please see http://www.conference.ie/Conferences/index.asp?Conference=213 for more details on registration, program, and accommodation.
THEORIZING AGE: CHALLENGING THE DISCIPLINES
7th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology
Inaugural Conference of the European Network in Aging Studies (ENAS)
Maastricht University, the Netherlands, 6-9 October 2011
Convener: Dr. Aagje Swinnen (left), Center for Gender and Diversity, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
This conference discussed the challenges that inter- and multidisciplinary research on aging and later life faces. Not only do disciplines such as gerontology, sociology, history, philosophy, and the arts vary in the way they question age-related matters and implement various methodologies to provide answers to these questions. They also use different sets of concepts and terminologies, or use the same concepts but define them differently. Discipline-challenging dialogues were generated at this conference along three paradigm shifts in the cross-disciplinary study of aging.
First, the critical turn in gerontology refers to the meta-reflection on the nature and practice of gerontology within gerontology itself. Critical gerontologists scrutinize how gerontology is affected by the quest of the natural sciences for the truth of old age. Instead, they focus on the way knowledge about old age is constructed and explain how age, as a salient identity marker next to gender, ethnicity, disability and class, causes inequalities between people. These inequalities based on chronological and biological age are to some extent institutionalized.
- How can critical gerontology be made more visible in Western public spheres (where the doom scenario of increasing health care costs due to the exponential growth of the older population reigns) and academia (e.g. European funding schemes)?
- How can critical gerontology improve the voicing of the problems that especially the oldest old or the frail elderly face nowadays?
Second, the narrative turn in gerontology refers to the interest in the way age identities are constituted in and through narratives. The word narrative, as a widespread travelling concept, helps to define aging as a development through time, negotiating between personal aspirations and the expectations of the master narratives we are inscribed in. Narrative gerontology, on the one hand, starts from the metaphor of life as story and aims to get a better understanding of aging through the stories older people use to express their experiences. Literary gerontology, on the other hand, studies the cultural representation of aging and old age in literature, and, by extension, other art forms.
- Which conceptual and methodological tools are shared by scholars from a social sciences and humanities background who are inspired by the narrative turn? How can we evaluate the implementation of travelling concepts in different disciplines? How does the concept of narrative for instance differ in narrative gerontology and the study of stories of aging from a narratological point of view and are there fruitful overlaps?
- How can insights into fictional accounts of aging support the politics of gerontology, i.e. the improvement of the quality of life of elderly people, particularly those in the fourth age? How can we prevent that storytelling projects with elderly uncritically repeat master narratives of aging?
Third, the performative turn in gerontology, which may be called the rise of age(ing) studies, refers to the defining of age both in terms of being and of doing. Theories of performativity claim that age identities are formed and perpetuated through the repetition of behavioural scripts connected to chronological ages and life stages. Since these repetitions can never be identical to the original scripts, there is room for subversion and change.
- How can theories of performativity help to bridge the body/mind gap that many studies of old age involuntarily sustain?
- How can differences between the philosophical, linguistic and artistic definitions of performance fully be accounted for? How can we critically adjust and elaborate on the notion of agency that is connected to theories of performativity?
Jan Baars is Professor of Interpretive Gerontology at the University for Humanistics in Utrecht, NL. He studied Social Sciences and Philosophy in Amsterdam, NL, Bielefeld, DE and Berkeley, US. His academic background in continental philosophy and Critical Theory (Adorno, Horkheimer, Habermas, Foucault) has inspired him to help in establishing the paradigm of ‘critical gerontology.’ His main interests are theoretical and practical presuppositions in approaches to aging, especially concepts of time and temporality. His forthcoming book is called Aging beyond the numbers of Time. He is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of Americaand a member of the editorial board of journals such as theInternational Journal of Aging and Later Life and the Journal of Aging, Humanities and the Arts.
Thomas R. Cole is the McGovern Chair in Medical Humanities and Director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at UTHEALTH in Houston, US. Cole graduated from Yale University (BA Philosophy, 1971), Wesleyan University (MA History, 1975) and the University of Rochester, (PhD History, 1981). He has published many articles and several books on the history of aging and humanistic gerontology and his book The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America (1992) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is senior editor of What Does It Mean to Grow Old? (1986), and mostly recently, with Ruth Ray and Robert Kastenbaum, Guide to Humanistic Studies in Aging (2010). Cole serves as an advisor to the United Nations NGO Committee on Ageing, and various editorial and foundation boards.
Anne Basting (PhD) is the Director of the Center on Age & Community and an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at the Peck School of the Arts, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, US. Basting has written extensively on issues of aging and representation, including two books,Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia (2009) and The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture. Her numerous articles and essays have been published across multiple disciplines including journals such as The Drama Review, American Theatre, and Journal of Aging Studies, and anthologiesFiguring Age, Mental Wellness in Aging,the Handbook for the Humanities and Aging, and Aging and the Meaning of Time. Basting is the recipient of a Rockefeller Fellowship, a Brookdale National Fellowship, and numerous major grants for her scholarly and creative endeavours.
Roberta Maierhofer is Professor at the Department of American Studies of the University of Graz, Austria, and Adjunct Professor at Binghamton University, New York. Since 2007, she has acted as Academic Director of the Center for the Study of the Americas of the University of Graz. Her research focuses on American Literature and Cultural Studies, Feminist Literature and Research, Transatlantic Cooperation in Education, and Age/Aging Studies. Roberta Maierhofer holds a master’s and a doctoral degree from the University of Graz as well as an M.A. degree in Comparative Literature from SUNY Binghamton. In her monograph, Salty Old Women: Gender and Aging in American Culture, she developed a theoretical approach to gender and aging (anocriticism).
Margaret Morganroth Gullette
A recipient of NEH, ACLS, and Bunting Fellowships, Margaret Morganroth Gullette is a scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University. Her book,Aged by Culture, was chosen as a “Noteworthy Book of the Year” by the Christian Science Monitor. Declining to Declinewon the Emily Toth Award as the best feminist book on American popular culture. Margaret’s focus on the midlife (the Midlife Fiction series: Safe at Last in the Middle Years and Declining to Decline) has expanded to become a new approach called Age Studies. In her recent book Agewise:Fighting the New Ageism in America, Gullette critiquesthe ageism and middle ageism that drive discontent with our bodies, our accomplishments, and our selfhood after youth, and even endanger our end-of-life care.
Philip Tew is Professor of English (Post-1900 Literature) at Brunel, the elected Director of the UK Network for Modern Fiction Studies, Director of the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing (BCCW), Co-Editor of both Critical Engagements and of Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of the Royal Society of Literature. Tew’s major research interests are various, including deploying narrative for sociological research, post-1945 and contemporary fiction and culture, and theoretical readings of literature generally. Together with a team of academics from Brunel (including Dr. Nick Hubble and Dr. Jago Morrison) Tew is the principal investigator responsible for the “Fiction and the Cultural Mediation of Ageing” project which forms part of the “New Dynamics of Ageing“ initiative.
Kathleen Woodward is Director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities and Professor of English at the University of Washington, Seattle, US, and Chair of the National Advisory Board of Imagining America. Woodward holds a BA in Economics from Smith College, Northampton, US and a PhD in Literature from the University of California at San Diego, US. She is the author of Statistical Panic: Cultural Politics and Poetics of Emotions (2009) and Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions (1991). She has published essays in the broad cross-disciplinary domains of the emotions, women and aging, and technology and culture in American Literary History, Discourse, Differences, Generations, Indiana Law Journal, SubStance, Journal of Women’s History, Women’s Review of Books, South Atlantic Review, Studies in the Novel, and Cultural Critique.
International Journal of Ageing and Later Life Special Issue
Aging, narrative, and performance: essays from the humanities
The six essays included in this special issue, which have been developed from papers presented at the Maastricht conference, offer examples of humanities approaches to aging. We are glad that IJAL, an interdisciplinary journal with a social science focus, has, for the first time, agreed to cluster humanities essays resulting from a conference in a special issue.
We trust that the work included here furthers the communal project of encouraging the sharing of knowledge and approaches across disciplines, and helps to illuminate the many meanings of aging and their implications for some of the societal challenges that lie ahead. The texts considered in many of these articles happen to be films (documentaries and features) and plays, but the insights they offer, which are drawn from approaches to cultural age and age as narrative as well as the performativity of age, model the ways in which these categories can help highlight the interdisciplinary relevance of humanities research on aging.
The articles can be accessed here.