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Diversity in Ageing and Disability: An Intersectional Approach to Bodily Change in Later Life

StatusNot started
Period1/01/1930/06/19

Description

Population ageing has been described as one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century worldwide: this new phenomenon raises specific healthcare concerns, as nearly 50% of older people experience some form of disability. The humanities, and literary studies in particular, are the ideal research venue for a detailed understanding of the wellbeing needs of this “tremendously diverse” (World Population Ageing Report 2015) global ageing population.

Building upon my expertise in medical humanities and critical disability studies, this project, funded by an Institute for Advanced Studies Research Fellowship, will address diversity in relation to ageing, looking at both the diverse experience of being old and the role of ageing and disability in socio-cultural responses to diversity and difference. The central research question is: what does it mean to grow old and disabled in a globalized world? More specifically, I will explore the depiction of ageing bodies in a selection of contemporary fictional and autobiographical texts to gain better knowledge of the following issues:

1. Resistance to medical interventionism in old age and adjustment to an acquired (rather than congenital) disability
2. Acceptance of a non-normative body in later life in the context of multigenerational migration
3. Gender and patient agency in terminal illness
4. Impact of bodily frailty and neurodegeneration on the perceived authoritativeness and reliability of old people’s accounts
5. Responses to ageing and disability in the context of societal attitudes to diversity and difference

As part of the IAS Fellowship, I will organize an interdisciplinary workshop on the diversity of experience of, and attitudes towards, ageing and disability, open to humanities and medical scholars, as well as healthcare professionals and patient associations. I will also work on my monograph 'Doctoring Stories: Biomedicine in Contemporary Western Literature' and on a journal article to be submitted to Narrative. This project will contribute to current debates on inclusiveness and diversity at the intersection of age, (dis)ability, gender, class, and ethnic background.

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