Cultural anthropological methods of studying age and ageing in research practice: experience, results and potential
Anamaria Depner (University of Heidelberg)
Paper short abstract:
Following the ethnological tradition of thick description, this presentation reports on the borders crossed, new ground broken and research ethics involved in the practice of ethnological work with and about the elderly, as well as associated material objects.
Paper long abstract:
Current gerontological research into age and ageing in German-speaking countries is characterised by its highly practical approach. At the same time, this discipline, which is gaining in socio-political importance, is increasingly opening up to theoretical approaches used in various fields. The presentation will show how ethnology can contribute in this respect, with its definition of culture, its methodological repertoire and its theoretical approaches, not least those taken from Material Culture Studies. To do so, insights are given into two interdisciplinary projects in which ethnologists are now also playing a role: a pure research project (Care and Things: Objects and their Significance in Past and Present Nursing Practice) and a project based on development and practice (I-Care: Individual Activation of People with Dementia). At the same time, the ethnological scientific access to the elderly will be presented as a potential means of gaining knowledge. Analysis and reflection of the joint work bring to light questions such as: - What can cooperation between ethnology and gerontology achieve with regard to theorising, pure research and implementing practical projects? - Why and to what extent is an approach via Material Culture Studies informative when observing elderly people, their life worlds and their environments? - What opportunities do we have to influence innovation, such as technological inventions, on the free market, and how should we apply that influence? - What position should we adopt when faced with the occasional dilemma that funders and their socio-political intentions sometimes pose in terms of research ethics?
Imagining an old future: anthropological perspectives on age and ageing