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.
On Becoming an Appreciating Subject
Practising Relating Differently with Dementia in Dialogue Meetings
Silke Hoppe, Laura Vermeulen, Annelieke Driessen, Els Roding, Marije de Groot and Kristine Krause
In this article, we describe experiences with dialogue evenings within a research collaboration on long-term care and dementia in the Netherlands. What started as a conventional process of ‘reporting back’ to interlocutors transformed over the course of two years into learning and knowing together. We argue that learning took place in three different articulations. First, participants learnt to expand their notion of knowledge. Second, they learnt to relate differently to each other and, therewith, to dementia. And third, participants learnt how to generate knowledge with each other. We further argue that these processes did not happen continuously, but in moments. We suggest that a framework of collaborative moments can be helpful for research projects that are not set up collaboratively from the start. Furthermore, we point to the work required to facilitate these moments.