Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Kathmandu Branch Office
SAI


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B19 Aging in a transcultural context

Aging in a transcultural context


Coordination: Christiane Brosius , Axel Michaels, Andreas Kruse

Abstract

Elderly Woman practicing Yoga.
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


This interdisciplinary research group - coordinated by Christiane Brosius (Visual and Media Anthropology, KJC), Axel Michaels (Indology, SAI) and Andreas Kruse (Gerontology, Institute of Gerontology) - focuses on aging in a transcultural urban context.

Asia witnesses drastic demographic dynamics and asymmetries in the structures of aging. As longevity and urbanisation are simultaneously on the rise there is a strong need for urban ethnography that captures the experience of aging within cities. The research group sets out to reflect the transcultural entanglements that take place as Euro-American concepts of generation, family, age and aging have travelled to India and the other way around. Transcultural entanglements are a rich repository to examine - and further challenge - the often proclaimed view that with "modernization" and "westernization" the respect for old people has vanished and multigenerational household or joint families allegedly have eroded. Far from being deteriorated, the generations have taken new steps to renegotiate and invest in the intergenerational contract. Notions such as "global", "modern" or "Western" are both embraced and rejected, depending on the context.

To gain new insights into the imagination of aging in a transcultural context media representations as repositories of narratives and representations, sounding boards and catalysts of social change and geronto-imaginaries will play a crucial role in the subprojects. Media imaginaries are arguably the most prominent signifier of what appears to be a globalizing narrative of aging. At the same time, careful analysis of a wide range of media cultures across disciplinary boundaries calls for a more differentiated understanding when mainstream representations and narratives of aging are juxtaposed against their trans/local reception, and studied through a necessary transmediality of hitherto marginalised media texts and sources in diverse formats of film, television soaps, magazines, advertisement or online media channels.

These objectives allow the researchers to capture discrepant experience of aging between highly dynamic social imaginaries and mobility on the one hand and relatively slowly changing inter-generational discourses and narratives, on the other. The research group will therefore employ the tools of critical media anthropology and ethnography to study how globalizing scripts of generativity need to be critiqued or adapted under the conditions of the developmental states, high-speed urbanisation and transitioning consumer societies of (South) Asia. One of the key foci will be India's capital Delhi, another the urbanizing region of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.

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