Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment
228 pages
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Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment


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228 pages


Investigates the emergence of a ‘new ageing’ and its realisation through the body by exploring new forms of embodiment concerned with identity and care of the self, which have seen the body become a site for ageing differently – for ageing without growing old. 

‘Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment’ outlines and develops an argument about the emergence of a ‘new ageing’ during the second half of the twentieth century and its realisation through the processes of ‘embodiment’. The authors argue that ageing as a unitary social process and agedness as a distinct social location have lost much of their purchase on the social imagination. Instead, this work asserts that later life has become as much a field for ‘not becoming old’ as of ‘old age’. The volume locates the origins of this transformation in the cultural ferment of the 1960s, when new forms of embodiment concerned with identity and the care of the self arose as mass phenomena. Over time, these new forms of embodiment have been extended, changing the traditional relationship between body, age and society by making struggles over the care of the self central to the cultures of later life. 

Introduction; Chapter 1: Identity, Embodiment and the Somatic Turn in the Social Sciences; Chapter 2: Corporeality, Embodiment and the ‘New Ageing’; Chapter 3: Gender, Ageing and Embodiment; Chapter 4: Age and the Racialised Body; Chapter 5: Disability, Ageing and Identity; Chapter 6: Sexuality, Ageing and Identity; Chapter 7: Sex and Ageing; Chapter 8: Cosmetics, Clothing and Fashionable Ageing; Chapter 9: Fitness, Exercise and the Ageing Body; Chapter 10: Ageing and Aspirational Medicine; Conclusions: Ageing, Forever Embodied; References; Index 



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Date de parution 15 mai 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780857283399
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment
Key Issues in Modern Sociology
Anthem’sKey Issues in Modern Sociologypublishes scholarly texts by series leading social theorists that give an accessible exposition of the major structural changes in modern societies. These volumes address an academic audience through their relevance and scholarly quality, and they connect sociological thought to public issues. The series covers both substantive and theoretical topics, as well as addressing the works of major modern sociologists. The series emphasis is on modern developments in sociology with relevance to contemporary issues such as globalisation, warfare, citizenship, human rights, environmental crises, demographic change, religion, post secularism and civil conflict.
Series Editor
Bryan S. Turner – City University of New York, USA & University of Western Sydney, Australia
Editorial Board
Thomas Cushman – Wellesley College, USA Rob Stones – University of Western Sydney, Australia Richard Swedberg – Cornell University, USA Stephen Turner – University of South Florida, USA Darin Weinberg – University of Cambridge, UK
Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company
This edition first published in UK and USA 2013 by ANTHEM PRESS 75–76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © Chris Gilleard and Paul Higgs 2013
The moral right of the authors has been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library CataloguinginPublication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress CataloginginPublication Data Gilleard, C. J. Ageing, corporeality and embodiment / Chris Gilleard and Paul Higgs. pages cm. – (Key issues in modern sociology) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN13: 9780857283290 (hardcover : alk. paper) ISBN10: 0857283294 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Aging–Psychological aspects. 2. Identity (Philosophical concept) 3. Aging–Nutritional aspects. 4. Physical fitness for older people. I. Higgs, Paul. II. Title. BF724.55.A35G55 2013 155.67–dc23 2013013870
ISBN13: 978 0 85728 329 0 (Hbk) ISBN10: 0 85728 329 4 (Hbk)
Cover image © Breanna Tallino
This title is also available as an eBook.
Chapter 7
Sex and Ageing
Chapter 6
Chapter 5
Disability, Ageing and Identity
Sexuality, Ageing and Identity
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Gender, Ageing and Embodiment
Corporeality, Embodiment and the ‘New Ageing’
Identity, Embodiment and the Somatic Turn in the Social Sciences
Chapter 4
Age and the Racialised Body
Chapter 1
Cosmetics, Clothing and Fashionable Ageing
Ageing, Forever Embodied
Chapter 8
Chapter 10
Fitness, Exercise and the Ageing Body
Chapter 9
Ageing and Aspirational Medicine
‘In man the changes are familiar: the skin is pale, often yellowish, wrinkled, and inelastic. On the backs of the hands purpura is common and there is patchy pigmentation of brownish hue. The hair is white and often sparse; the back is bowed, the limbs are sometimes tremulous, and the teeth are lost. Movement is slow and often clumsy. There is a tendency to fall, and […] the fears of accident may be so great that they dominate the life of the old person. Muscular effort entails distress, especially with breathing. Sleep is short and easily disturbed, though drowsiness is frequent. Vision fails and deafness is common. Sexual desire wanes […]’ —A. P. Thomson, ‘Problems of Ageing and Chronic Sickness’,British Medical Journal2 (1949): 302
Ageing is not what it once was. That was the premise of our first book,Cultures of Ageing(2000) and it continues to guide the present one. From Thomson’s time when the above was published to the first decade of the twentyfirst century, profound changes have taken place in our understanding and interpretation of ageing and old age. During this period, old age as a distinct social category has collapsed while ageing itself has lost much of its former coherence. Age as ‘old age’ has been replaced by the feared social imaginary of a ‘fourth age’ (Gilleard and Higgs 2010) while the ageing ‘process’ has become caught up in the puzzling, cultural complexity that is the ‘third age’ (Gilleard and Higgs 2011a). Out of this mix of fear, hope and confusion, some have discerned a new kind of ageing appearing characterised by ‘the expansion of more promising possibilities of selfconstruction’ in later life (Gergen and Gergen 2000, 282). Most discussion of this new ageing has concentrated upon issues of the self, citizenship and the changingsocialcontext of later life. Less attention has been paid to how it is imbricated in the changing relationship between the body and society. This will be the focus of this book. By 1950, the ‘provisional endpoint of modernization’ (Kohli 2007, 257), old age, as we and others have argued, had become a status firmly located within the institutionalised life course of white heterosexual ablebodied men. This cultural and economic archetype played an unspoken but important role within the ‘modernist’ model of social structure where chronological rather than corporeal age provided the principal, legitimised means for men to exit the labour force. Freed from the requirement of continuing to labour, men’s old age was supported either by the state alone or by some combination of state, occupational and private pension income. The status of men’s ‘working age’ framed the status of their old age. Women’s life course was more loosely marked by chronological age. The nearest comparison to
the chronology of working and nonworking life for women was defined by ‘being of ’ and ‘being beyond’ reproductive age. A woman’s life course was punctuated by marriage and motherhood, grandparenting and widowhood, all transitions that reflected personal relationships, health and individual circumstances rather than the institutional arrangements of the economy. The principal marker of women’s entry into later life – the menopause – was mostly excluded from public debate. Serving no obvious role within the economy, this particular aspect of women’s corporeality was deemed irrelevant for gaining access to the social entitlements and responsibilities of senior citizenship. In a similar way to the position of women, most disabled people – male or female – were excused (if not denied) from fulfilling the demands of the breadwinner role. Once they had left behind their childhood, the adult life course of disabled people, including their subsequent ageing, was overshadowed by the status given to them by their bodily impairment(s). This status minimised further life course transitions. The choice of whether to become old or remain disabled was not in their hands. Senior citizenship in Europe, North America and Australasia was framed and regulated by the working life of ablebodied white men. The colour of ageing was as implicitly white as were most other institutionalised structures of these societies. In the USA, that most radicalised of Western societies, African Americans were poorly integrated into the national economy, both as workers and as consumers. African Americans benefited little from the corporate welfare structures that provided occupational pensions and healthcare to the majority of the white US workforce (Hacker 2002, 132–33). A similar marginalisation was evident in the benefits dispensed by the state: African Americans were less likely to receive any (Byrd and Clayton 2002, 211–12). Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the ageing and old age of all socalled ‘minorities’ were largely irrelevant in framing the institutionalisation of the life course. Its chronology was organised around that of the rational ‘disciplined, compliant adult male’ by a working life that was embedded within the needs of the productive economy (Sydie 2004, 49). Those living in the 1960s experienced the culmination of ‘first modernity’ at the same time as witnessing its dissolution. The cultural ferment of the time saw the status of the white male breadwinner undermined as a new ‘normativity of diversity’ began to replace the standard life course model. This was achieved less by any deliberate political programme of ‘liberation’ but more through what Beck has called ‘the normalization of diversity’ (Beck 2007). Within this normalisation by side effects, the body as a separate cultural entity took on a particular significance. As the body began to orient individuals toward other possible identities, new forms of ‘embodiment’ emerged whose social distinctions were presaged upon aspects of the corporeal. Social movements based upon gender and race, as well as sexual orientation and the lifestyles associated with them, helped create generalised demands for ‘liberation’. As elective communities of association were established that oriented their members toward their own bodies as vehicles of social distinction, bodies other than those of the male white worker asserted their presence in the social polity. In the process, alternative lifestyles were developed, distinct from those that had been standardised within the normativity of first modernity.
These developments were also realised, reflected and promoted by the market and the mass media. The body was exposed in public more than it had been before, not just through the increasing political references to the embodied distinctions of gender, race and sexuality but through the lifestyles and leisure practices that were associated with them. These were widely diffused by the media, the arts and entertainment industries and by the invigorated retail sector. Reflecting upon the somatic turn taken by society in the 1960s, two developments seem particularly salient for this book. One is the importance given by society to the ‘embodiment’ of identities while the other is the expansion of ‘embodied practices’ and the ways they served to support and help realise these new identities. At this juncture it is important to define some of the terms that we have introduced and will use throughout much of this book. The termcorporealityused to refer to is the relatively unmediated materiality of the body – the body in Donna Haraway’s terminology as a social ‘actant’, standing in contradistinction to the body’s role as a social ‘agent’ (Haraway 1997, 4). Corporeality describes the material actions and reactions of bodies that are realised socially but without recourse to concepts of agency or intent (Haraway 1997).Embodimenton the other hand refers to the body as a vehicle or medium of social agency. It encompasses all those actions performed by the body, on the body and through the body which are oriented toward the social and which are both subject to and made salient by the reciprocal actions and expectations of the self and others. In this sense embodiment can be thought of as an ‘epigenetic’ property of the body arising out of its inextricable engagement with the social, by the processes through which the body is made socially meaningful. The corporeality of ageing – those relatively unmediated bodily changes which occur within individual lifetimes – provides the critical context for age’s embodiment and all those practices and narratives that explicitly or implicitly are oriented toward the social expression – or denial – of ageing and agedness. Embodiment is realised in identity itself, through the various narratives by which an identity is imbricated within society and in the practices by which socially meaningful identities and lifestyles are realised. The term ‘embodied identities’ refers to identities and lifestyles based around some collectively shared set of bodily distinctions: distinctions of how particular bodies act, look or both. Emerging first in the politics of race and secondly in the Women’s Movement, embodied identities subsequently extended beyond the categories of race and gender to include people seeking distinction on the basis of other corporeal differences such as those of disability or sexual preference.If not for the first time then more distinctively, people whose bodies had long been seen to differ from those of ablebodied, white male heterosexuals began to reposition themselves through a common rejection of their cultural, political and economic marginality. Often no longer tolerating the devaluation of their bodies, these groups began to assert the equality of their difference and moreover demand access to the goods and services that were on offer in the newly evolving postwar massconsumer society. By ‘embodied practices’, we are referring to all those practices of selfcare and selfexpression that are mediated by society in, and through, the autonomous body.
They reflect the culturally mediated body work that writers such as Bauman, Beck and Giddens consider to constitute the modern self and that frame most public and private selfother relationships (Bauman 2000; Beck and BeckGersheim 2001; Giddens 1991). Embodied practices serve to realise or repress, completely or selectively, particularly embodied identities and their associated lifestyles. The idea of embodied practices has its roots in anthropology and the work of Marcel Mauss and Maurice Merleau Ponty, whose relevance to the sociology of the body has already been outlined by Nick Crossley (Crossley 2001, 2007). In the turn towards a more intensely somatic society, many contemporary expressions or practices of embodiment have oriented themselves around the contested identities and alternative lifestyles that were realised in the new social movements and their rapid commoditisation within the market. It is this complex of countercultures and consumerism that most distinguishes contemporary embodied practices from those associated with the corporeal ethics of premodernity or that were defined by the regimentation and reification of late nineteenth and early twentieth century ‘first’ modernity. The ‘cultural revolution’ of the 1960s and the new forms of embodiment associated with it are not simply matters of historical imagination or political rhetoric. They were realised in a distinct set of material conditions emerging after the Second World War, of rising educational opportunities, higher standards of living and the growth of discretionary spending power, particularly among young people. They were diffused across society by a combination of marketing, the new media and the postwar entertainment, leisure and selfcare industries, and they consciously and notably privileged youth. Youth subcultures and countercultures galvanised the market and the market duly responded, rushing to reinforce their claims for autonomy and distinction by promoting the ‘democratisation’ of fashion complete with a new system of ‘age segmentation’ (Lipovetsky 2002). The results were not only new clothes, but new hairstyles, new forms of music – in a word, new lifestyles – marketed as signifiers, for those buying into this new culture of consumption, that they had liberated themselves from the oppression of the past and had broken free from all that was old and outdated (Heath and Potter 2005). Age targeting helped grow sales of nonessential products and services on the back of the consumerist stimulation of young people’s desires for self expression, lifestyle choice and enhanced bodily enjoyment. Consumerism, choice and selfexpression became linked. Sexuality was similarly distanced from sexual reproduction while ‘race’ began to acquire a new ‘transracial’ appeal in the music, the lifestyle and the fashions of those who identified themselves as the young. Political and cultural expressions of identity embodied by a person’s gender, race or sexuality were supported by the increasing use of the body as a site for the care of self and the cultivation of lifestyle. Identities were not just about who you were but equally about how you behaved. During the 1960s, hair salons, beauty parlours, fashion boutiques and dance studios blossomed. In place of the swimming pools and municipal baths that had served as sites of family fun and centres for physical education, fitness and leisure centres increasingly emerged as shop windows for fitness and physicality (Stern 2008). Once limited to the collective callisthenics of future workers and warriors, body work became refashioned and reindividualised through new practices such as aerobics, jogging, and whole