Ageing, Stigma & Biopolitics in the 21st Century

Wednesday 29 November 2017, 4.00PM to 5.00pm

Speaker(s): Professor Joanna Latimer

Growing old ‘badly’ is stigmatizing, a truism that is enrolled into contemporary agendas for the biomedicalization of ageing. Among the many discourses that emphasize ageing as the root cause of later life illnesses, dementia is currently promoted as an epidemic and such hyperbole serves to legitimate its increasing biomedicalization. The new stigma however is no longer contained to simply having dementia, it is failing to prevent it. Anti-ageing cultures of consumption, alongside a proliferation of cultural depictions of the ageing-dementia relation, seem to be refiguring dementia as a future to be worked on to eliminate it from our everyday life. The paper unpacks this complexity for how the ageing-dementia relation is being reassembled in biopolitics in ways that enact it as something that can be transformed and managed. Bringing together Bauman’s (2001) theories of how cultural communities cope with the otherness of the other with theories of the rationale for the making of monsters - such as the figure of the abject older person with dementia - I suggest that those older body-persons that personify the ageing-dementia relation, depicted in film and television for example, are ‘the Sacra’ (Turner, 1967) that threaten the modes of ordering underpinning contemporary lives.  This is not just because they intimate loss of mind, or because they are disruptive, but because they do not perform what it is to be ‘response-able’ and postpone frailty through managing self and risk. 


Joanna Latimer is Professor of Sociology, Science & Technology & Director of the Science & Technology Studies Unit (SATSU), University of York, UK.

Having studied English Literature as an undergraduate, I then trained and worked as a nurse. I won a fellowship to do a PhD about older people in acute medicine, published as The Conduct of Care. Having worked at Keele as Senior Research Fellow in Nursing and then in Sociology and the Centre for Social Gerontology, I took up a lectureship in Sociology at Cardiff in 1999, progressing to chair in 2009. My research focuses on the cultural, social and existential effects and affects for how science, medicine and healthcare are done.  I work ethnographically, examining everyday processes of inclusion and exclusion. I am especially interested in the worlds people make together and the biopolitics they are entangled in and circulate.  Making contributions at the leading edge of social theory, I have written about the constituting of classesmotility, extension, aboutnessnatureculturescare in biomedicinedwellingthe politics of imaginationbody-world relations and class. Currently I am exploring the notion of the Threshold. I have published many articles and books, including The Gene, The Clinic and The Family, awarded the 2014 FSHI annual book prize. I am a longstanding member of the editorial board of The Sociological Review, and co-editor of the journal Sociology of Health and Illness. Currently I am writing a new book for Routledge, Biopolitics and the Limits to Life: Ageing, Biology and Society in the 21st Century, and co-editing two special issues, one on contemporary developments in Alzheimer’s research for New Genetics & Society (with Richard Milne & Shirlene Badger) and the other entitled Intimate Entanglements (with Daniel Lopez).

Location: Wentworth College (W/222)

Admission: FREE Eventbrite ticket


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