New Cultures of Ageing: Researching the Future

8-9/04/2011 | Times TBA

New Cultures of Ageing: Narratives, Fictions, Methods & Researching the Future

8th – 9th April 2011

An interdisciplinary conference organized by the NDA-funded FCMAP Group of Investigators and  by the BCCW Research Group, Brunel University, London.


Will Self

Fay Weldon

Barbara Czarniawska (Gothenburg Research Institute),
Gillian Crossby (Director, Centre for Policy on Ageing),
Keith Richards (Third Age Trust),
 Dorothy Sheridan (Director, Mass Observation),
Pat Thane (Institute of Historical Research)
Plenary Panel on ‘Ageing Policy’
Plenary Panel on ‘Third and Fourth Age Subjectivity'

 Representations of ageing circulate in culture and society, as part of a narrative which underwrites social experience; impacting on identity, agency, attitudes, policy and quality of life in general. Critical and qualitative analysis of these narratives helps us understand both ageing as it is currently experienced and the emerging shifts in these representations that indicate possible ways in which it may well be experienced in the future.

According to Rejuvenating Ageing Research, the 2009 report by the Academy of Medical Science, average life expectancy in the UK is increasing at more than five hours a day, every day.  However, more fundamentally, the report describes ageing as a biological side effect potentially susceptible to treatment and thus opens up the possibility of medically targeting the process of ageing itself. Mapping and planning such transformations is an imperative challenge for scholars, researchers and for other stake holders in various fields. Already the extension of healthy life-expectancy for many into their eighties and nineties makes a mockery of addressing people in their sixties or seventies as old. Rather than see ageing as a problem—a condition defined by decline, frailty and vulnerability, one to be addressed in terms of fiscal policy and care—enlightened research needs to see increased longevity bringing about exciting and radical changes of cultural forms; transforming collective and individual experience in the Twenty-First Century.

 New Cultures of Ageing will bring together academics and professionals from the Social Sciences and the Humanities to examine the changing scene of ageing in contemporary Britain.  Our common understanding is that both social narratives of ageing and actual conditions of life are in flux. By providing a forum for mapping that flux, this event will investigate the necessity for future-directed inflections across many disciplines.

Researchers from the Humanities are encouraged to explore literary, filmic and other representations of ageing, addressing various questions including the following. In what ways can literature help to provide us with a longitudinal perspective on the changing experience of ageing in the post-war period?  How are representations of ageing changing as we move through the early twenty-first century? In what ways are writers refiguring our imagination of the ageing body, as well as the social and physical spaces it inhabits?  In what ways does literature figure ageing as a gendered experience, and in what ways have feminist and gender critics and theorists responded to these representations?  What connections can be drawn between depictions of ageing in fiction and those in the other creative arts?  How far can post-war and contemporary writers be argued to have perpetuated, or to have disturbed, sedimented stereotypes of ageing-as-senescence?  What light can literature shed on the complex relationships between postcoloniality, globalisation and the changing experience of ageing in Britain and internationally?  Does it make sense to speak of ageing subcultures, and how might literature help to shed light on the differential contexts and experiences of ageing  in contemporary culture?  In what ways have literary texts addressed the thorny questions of ageing and disability/capability?

Please click here for further details and reigstration or click here to read more about the Ageing and Fiction project.

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