On May 30, May will be presenting a paper, titled "Unsettling Aging Futures," at TrentAging 2019. May's paper will be part of a panel on "Queering Aging Futures: Feminist, Queer, Decolonial and Crip Visions of a Good Old Age," which will be hosted by our colleague and friend Barbara L. Marshall. The panel also includes longtime collaborator and friend, Nadine Changfoot, as well as Carla Rice, Andrew King, and Rebecca L. Jones. Read about the papers below!
Panel: Queering Aging Futures: Feminist, Queer, Decolonial and Crip Visions of a Good Old Age
Brief opening statement
Barbara L. Marshall, Trent University, Canada
Unsettling Aging Futures
May Chazan, Trent University, Canada
In their influential article, “Queering Aging Futures,” Marshall and Sandberg explore the problematic ways that compulsory heteronormativity and able-bodiedness/able-mindedness shape dominant conceptions of successful aging and happy aging futures. They offer the project of ‘queering aging futures’ (a project that also encompasses ‘cripping aging futures’), working to make space for positive futurity among people whose experiences do not match images of wealthy, physically-fit older couples with grandchildren. What they do not ‘queer,’ however, is the enduring whiteness and colonial-normativity of the very conceptions and representations that they critique. This paper thus seeks to extend their important work – to further unsettle the project of queering/cripping aging futures – by also engaging with critical race and decolonial perspectives. It draws on digital storytelling research carried out in 2016-2017 with multi-aged groups of activists in Peterborough (Canada), which centres the experiences, stories, and knowledges of queer activists, Indigenous activists, and activists of colour. The analysis brings key interviews (specifically with three middle-aged/older Indigenous women and one genderqueer youth-of-colour) into dialogue with critical writings on both ‘queering aging futures’ and ‘successful aging.’ In doing so, it challenges and extends the ways in which the interrelated concepts generativity, temporality, and futurity have so far been understood within gerontology and aging studies. This article ultimately turns to decolonial and critical race perspectives to offer new ways of conceiving of aging with happiness, meaning, and value for all, and particularly for those most abjected by dominant hetero-able-white aging narratives.
Andrew King, University of Surrey, United Kingdom
This presentation looks at the possibilities and challenges of queering dementia: what taking a queer theoretical perspective towards dementia can add to our understandings of cognitive and hetero normativities later in life and how they are interlinked. The first part of the presentation examines existing studies of LGBT people living with dementia (LGBTLWD). I use the term ‘living with’ here to take a more relational approach to health and illness i.e. one that does not individualise but recognises that health and illness are always lived out within a social context. The second part of the presentation then takes a more critically queer perspective, drawing on ideas from Queer Theory, but especially Edelman’s (2004) notion of ‘heterofuturity’ and Halberstam’s (2011) writings on ‘queer forgetting’. I finish with a reading of a recent advertisement from the Alzheimer’s Society UK to illustrate key points that I have developed across the presentation, but especially how cultural norms about cognition and sexuality are reproduced.
Crip Queer Futurities of Aging: Emergent Timescapes
Nadine Changfoot, Trent University, Canada Carla Rice, University of Guelph, Canada
This paper presents futurities of aging whereby “cripped” time – non-linear, non-progressive, circular, and open-ended -- surfaces non-normative timescapes of disabled and aging embodiments as continuously in-process and disabled and aging futures as livable and desirable. We develop this argument through analyzing narrative films made as part of Re•Vision—a media centre that works with aggrieved communities and allies—by diversely-located people living with mind/body differences. From the Re•Vision archive, we will select four videos made by storytellers who identify wholly or partially with categories of disability, queer, aging and more, and by those whose narratives take up aging and disabled bodies and time. When witnesses of these stories are brought into a non-normative timescale, they are also brought into representations of difference as processual becomings informed by new materialism (Barad 2003, Grosz 1994, 1999). This provides possibilities for differences to emerge otherwise in ways and in spaces in-between dominant cultural narratives that are associated with ‘successful aging.’ Binaries, such as success/failure and desirable/undesirable, worthy/unworthy underwriting these dominant narratives become dis-located when new meanings of becoming attuned to desire at intersections of disability, aging, and more, and to co-presencing of pain and pleasure, and past and future are brought into view. These emergent new materialities and timescapes show the many ways and demands of futurities and coalitional possibilities of aging/ disability and other materialities.
Imagining Feminist Old Age: Moving Beyond the Third Age?
Rebecca L. Jones, The Open University, United Kingdom
This paper reports findings from a project that explicitly aimed to generate new feminist visions of later life, inspired by Sandberg and Marshall’s 2017 paper. Workshops were held with small groups of self-identified feminists of all ages, aiming for diversity among participants in relation to major demographic differences. During the workshops, participants encountered some stimulus materials and collectively generated a list of ‘ingredients for a feminist old age’. They then created personal visions of their own feminist old age, selecting from a wide range of arts and crafts materials such as stickers, felt-tips, pastels, maps, pipecleaners and paper dolls. This paper analyses the artefacts that were created, alongside participants’ written comments about their creations and their experiences of taking part in the workshops. As other similar studies have found, many participants imagined Third Age kinds of futures, focusing on the freedoms of the years post retirement to develop new hobbies and travel, rather than the challenges of ageing. However, some participants did imagine future physical decline and ways of embracing or overcoming it, including recognition of interdependence and a ‘RoboDog’ to support physical mobility. Others imagined new emotional and psychological foci for later life, distinct from those of mid-life, such as healing from past family trauma. The project suggests that new feminist visions of old age can be generated through this kind of ‘consciousness- raising’ activity but that there are a number of challenging ethical and methodological issues that require further exploration.