Dementia and the Moral Order

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 13:30
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Trude GJERNES, University of Nordland, Norway
Per MASEIDE, secon author, Norway
Dementia is a neurobiological condition with various social and behavioral consequences. Neurological progress of dementia leads under certain circumstances to social and cultural challenges.  The aim of the paper is to study and discuss how institutions try to control the social and cultural manners of persons with cognitive and biological restrictions because of dementia. People diagnosed with dementia are often inmates in social establishments or institutions meant to provide care for such patients. Part of this caring function is to control social situations through careful planning and governance of for instance eating situations. The study is based on observations from a day center in Norway. We are concentrating on the meeting of such biological issues as neurological decline and need for nourishment on the one hand, and how these biological claims are met and managed socially and culturally in institutionalized eating situations.

 The study is informed by Norbert Elias ideas about civilization. To behave as a civilized person is understood as a normal and desirable form of behavior. Instead of using the term ‘civilizing’, we use the term ‘domestication’ to describe how professionals in institutional settings meet demented individuals. The study is also informed by the sociology of the body. The body is understood as a biological entity with biological needs and limitations but also as a normatively regulated social body. Ordinary social environments presuppose a well-functioning body with no anomalies. The demented body have some anomalies and institutions like the day care center are faced with the problem of how to civilize or domesticate the “demented body”. Our paper focuses on how such challenges are managed in eating situations.