Distinction and Identity in Later Life

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Chris GILLEARD , Mental Health Sciences, University City London, Brain Sciences, London, United Kingdom
The cultural turn in the social sciences during the 1980s brought new prominence to sources of distinction based on the body, such as disability, gender, race and sexuality.  We argue that many of the embodied practices associated with these newly privileged bodily distinctions were further developed, sustained and extended by consumption and consumerism.  Drawing attention to aspects of social identity that had been previously overlooked, the new social movements brought into central focus and ‘liberated’  what might be deemed marginalised identities.  The identity politics and associated new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s however were situated in the counter-cultures of youth.  In this paper we explore how the ‘ageing’ of those youth cultures have affected the contemporary experiences, narratives and performances of age and in the process brought new ways of thinking differently about ageing and the body.  This ‘cultural turn’ is exemplified in contemporary research into ageing lifestyles, ageing and exercise, ageing and fashion, ageing and sex and more generally the performativities of ageing.  Rather than developing a transgressive ‘age liberation’ movement however, much of this embodying performativity seeks to resist the purchase of ‘agedness’ on fashioning lifestyles oriented as much to not becoming old as to still being gendered, racialised, able-bodied/disabled, straight or gay throughout one’s adult life.