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
Communication with People with Dementia in Creative Movement Sessions
This article explores the various ways of communicating with people with dementia during dance sessions and how creative movement can support people to create meaning in the moment. The following did not originate in conventional research but is a reflection on my work as a dancer in healthcare. I took notes about my observations for my own development. After some time I felt the need to dig deeper and search for theories affiliated to my thoughts and find out more about dementia.
This chapter engages both the irony of old age and the old age of irony. Building on an understanding of senility and dementia as reg- isters of voice, it makes three principal assertions: ﬁrst, that a form of listeningwe might term ironic may allow for less depersonaliza- tion of those we hear to be senile; second, that an ironic relationship to the biologization of everythingavoids a return to nature/culture binaries; and third, that irony for both Plato and for Vico is framed as a temporal register of the aging of things. Using Socrates as an example of a ﬁgure whose aging is outside of nature yet under the law, the essay explores the tension between living with the difﬁcult elderly and seeking to displace them in order to maintain the time- lessness of culture.
For an Anthropology of Cognitive Disability
Patrick McKearney and Tyler Zoanni
How can we study significant cognitive differences within social groups anthropologically? Attempting to do so challenges some of the discipline’s most cherished methodological, analytical and ethical commitments, raising questions about how we understand difference, both between and within societies. Such challenges both explain the neglect of the topic up until now and suggest its scholarly potential. In this article, we move to lay the groundwork for an anthropology that takes seriously cognitive differences (such as autism, dementia and intellectual disability), as well as their potentially disabling consequences. We ask: what kind of cross-cultural reality does cognitive variation have, and how problematic are such differences for those who live with them? We spell out at greater length some of the difficulties involved in developing this conversation, attempt to address these issues, and delineate some of the important benefits that follow from doing so.
This biographical and, in part, phenomenological anthropology of older people in post-industrial England illuminates a local and generationally specific communitarian critique of and form of resistance against the process of individualisation. Rather than presenting communitarianism conventionally as an abstract political ideology or set of ideas about locality, it is conceptualised as emerging from and being reinforced by experiences of ageing, especially bodily ageing. It these respects, the article responds positively to Tatjana Thelen and Cati Coe’s call to take the anthropology of ageing out of its current condition of relative intellectual marginality, by recognising ageing and its related care arrangements as key structuring features within societies and political organisation and by treating them as a window onto understanding broad-scale social and political processes.