RATIONALE & FOCUS

AGING ACTIVISMS: RATIONALE & FOCUS

While feminist scholars have become increasingly attuned to how gender, class, race, sexuality, and geography intersect to influence people’s mobilizations, age/ing has not been as widely considered in such analyses. At the same time, several scholars have sought to bring attention to older women’s activisms, but much of the work in this area focuses on a few well-known movements of “grandmother activists,” certain outward forms of protest, and the contributions of relatively privileged groups. The activisms of people who are older, racialized, Indigenous, LGBTQ2IA+, and/or from outside the “Global North,” as well as the intergenerational dynamics of their activisms, remain largely undocumented.  

Aging Activisms seeks to redress these processes of activist erasure and invisibilization. It simultaneously challenges the too-frequent omission of age/ing and intergenerationality within the social movement literature and inserts an intersectional analysis of activisms into aging studies. This program of research hinges on the following overarching questions: How do activists from different backgrounds and movements work for change over their lives and particularly in later life? What motivates and sustains their diverse activisms? How do they narrate, document, archive, and circulate their stories of resistance, resurgence, and resilience?

 

Aging Activisms specifically seeks to unsettle the epistemic and methodological boundaries of existing scholarship on activisms in several ways:  

  1. By expanding the ‘who’. As Angela Davis eloquently articulates in her 2007 lecture called How Change Happens, “Often those who contribute most powerfully to movements for radical social change are erased in the histories that are transmitted from generation to generation.” Aging Activisms centres the stories that are the least documented and most invisibilized: the varied stories activists who are women, nonbinary, older, racialized, Indigenous, LGBTQ2IA+, and from outside the “Global North.”  
     

  2. Expanding the ‘what’. Aging Activisms asks what the discourses of “activism” and “social movements” reveal and what they obscure, investigating the many ways in which people work, activate, animate, dismantle, persist, create, and resist for change. It considers activisms (pluralized), including less overt forms of social change work, such as land-based work, cultural resurgence, ceremony, arts-based practices, refusal, and survival, as potential forms of activism.  
     

  3. Expanding the ‘how’. Through continued development of intergenerational and intersubjective storytelling and media-creation methodologies, alongside activist archival work, oral history, and participant observation, Aging Activisms aims to extend how knowledge about aging and activism is typically produced. We explore how different activists tell, record, preserve, share, and circulate their own stories, drawing especially on decolonial, queer, and feminist scholarship on storytelling.

Aging Activisms is a program of activist research, academic mentorship, and intergenerational community-building led by
Dr. May Chazan, Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Gender and Feminist Studies at Trent University.

Thanks to Ben Hodson for our graphic. The photos on our site have been taken by members of the Aging Activisms research team and our participants and collaborators.