Pleasure and Dementia

On Becoming an Appreciating Subject

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
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  • 1 University of Amsterdam a.e.driessen@uva.nl
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Abstract

What can pleasure in the nursing home teach us about dementia and subjectivity? In this article I seek to challenge the assumption that the ‘fourth age’ involves the loss of subjectivity. In presenting dementia as a single pathway towards loss and decline, alternative pathways that provide more hopeful imaginaries become obscured. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in residential dementia care, I show how care professionals craft conditions that invite residents to take pleasure in, for example, dancing and bathing, and thus to become what I call ‘appreciating subjects’. Although residents do not craft these conditions themselves, they are active in accepting the invitations offered and enacting their appreciations. I argue that pleasure is a relational achievement, one that is contagious for those who let themselves be affected.

Contributor Notes

Annelieke Driessen is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology of Care research group at the University of Amsterdam. Her work ethnographically explores care practices in which ways of living well with dementia are crafted in institutional settings. Her chapter ‘Sociomaterial Will-Work: Aligning Daily Wanting in Dutch Dementia Care’ appears in Care in Healthcare: Reflections on Theory and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), and she is a co-author of ‘Freedom in Dementia Care? On Becoming Better Bound to the Nursing Home’, with Ilse van der Klift and Kristine Krause (Etnofoor, 29 (1), 2017).

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