1st Global Conference
Times of our Lives: Making Sense Of Ageing
Friday 3rd July - Sunday 5th July 2009
Mansfield College, Oxford
Call for Papers
We age from the moment we are born. The changes we undergo are complex, multifaceted and, above all, inevitable. From a biological perspective, these changes follow a broad pattern that applies to everyone (the exceptions being regarded as abnormal). However, human development does not happen in the body alone; it happens in life, in the bio-social sphere that is our natural habitat. The developmental sequence which is known as the ‘life-course’ does have physiological bench-marks that both enable and constrain action, but its nature and the significance of its phases depend on how the typical events of the life span are interpreted by culture and understood by individuals.
Thus, for example, we know that ‘age’ as a descriptive concept can be applied to any number of situations – and, at the same time, we also implicitly understand that ‘ageing’ normally refers to the later part of life, the part that follows ‘middle age’. In the so-called developed societies, ‘ageing’ and ‘old age’ have for some time represented a special field of study, both for distinct disciplines and for interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches. Most research in this area has tended to be focused on specific problems, on difficulties posed for both social systems and individual experience that can occur in the last two to three decades of life (in terms of current life-expectancy; notably, this was not always so). Such research is abundant. Much useful knowledge has been produced; however, the rich and full meaning of human ageing in the context of the life-course as a whole has often been overlooked.
By and large, this has also been the case with the generally accepted phases of the life-course (infancy and childhood, adolescence, middle age, old age). Inquiry has tended to considered them in isolation, except for studies of transitions between one phase and another. It is true that life-course perspective as a theoretical paradigm has made some inroads into the study of people’s lives in temporal and social contexts. Inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches have been called for and are emerging. In Europe and North America, there have been some advancements, as evidenced in recently published compendia (e.g. Mortimer and Shanahan 2004, Handbook of the Life Course, Springer; Johnson 2005, The Cambridge Handbook of Age and Ageing, CUP) within the framework of psychology and sociology. Overall, however, not much cross-fertilisation has occurred in research, as contemporary structural and institutional constraints stand in the way of such developments.
Making Sense Of : Human Ageing as a continuing project seeks to bring together varied approaches to the study and contemplation of the life-course, the aim being the establishment of a forum for conversations among disciplines and areas of interest. All manner of dialogue will be encouraged: for example, researchers in the field of childhood and old age, say, could explore and discuss literary and psychiatric approaches and, perhaps, find common ground; or, historians might confer about adolescence and senescence in the same breath, as it were, along the way generating new insights about the changing vicissitudes of the human condition; and so on.
Thus our project necessarily has a very broad brief. This is deliberate, allowing participants to develop their interests and, over time, hone the parameters of the project. The activities of the project will be reviewed regularly in order to identify emergent new directions. Information about our discussion forums and publications under the aegis of this project will be available on the Inter-Disciplinary.Net website.
We have identified a number of areas of interest that are relevant to the Making Sense Of: Human Ageing project. The following themes are suggested for our first conference:
Aspects of the Life Course
* the meaning of age: biology meets culture (or vice versa)
* the nature and meaning of life stages: childhood, adulthood, old age in historical, literary and philosophical perspectives
* the human Odyssey across cultures
* the life course in history, in art, in the life-sciences
* images of human life: from ‘life cycle’ to ‘life course’ to ‘trajectories’
* pathways in the life course: to work, to family formation, to resignation, to metamorphosis
* one’s life and the life-course – same or different?
* forms of intimacy and the life course: love, friendship family
* sex, gender and the life course
Childhood, Adulthood, Old Age
* changing parameters of ‘youth’ in modernity: how and why?
* ‘the child’ through prisms of the arts and the sciences
* the ‘end of childhood’ thesis; does it hold?
* what is an ‘adult’? Can ‘adulthood’ be defined, and if so, how? How is it represented?
* reflections of – and on – ‘young’ in literature and art (including music)
* images of old age in art
* wisdom and old age: fact or fiction?
* “Like and old woman”; old age as metaphor
* collective trauma and ‘historical generations’ (e.g. ‘The Great Depression’)
* going forward, looking back: nostalgia for times gone by
* generations X, Y, Z – and…?
* relationships among age-groups: through affection, authority, habit, need…?
* The ‘generation gap’: what (and where) is it?
* filial relations through the life course
* health and illness across generations: who takes care of whom, and when?
Papers will be considered on any related theme. 300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 6th February 2009. If your paper is accepted for presentation at the conference, an 8 page draft paper should be submitted by Friday 5th June 2009.
300 word abstracts should be submitted to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this order:
author(s), affiliation, email address, title of abstract, body of abstract
We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
Dr Harry Blatterer
Department of Sociology
School of Sociology and Social Anthropology, The University of New South Wales,
Dr Rob Fisher
Network Founder and Network Leader
Priory House, Freeland, Oxfordshire OX29 8HR
The conference is part of the ‘Making Sense Of: ’ series of research projects, which in turn belong to the ‘Probing the Boundaries’ programmes of ID.Net. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and challenging. All papers accepted for and presented at the conference will be published in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be invited to go forward for development into 20-25 page chapters for publication in a themed dialogic ISBN hard copy volume.
For further details about the project please visit:
For further details about the conference please visit:
Dr Rob Fisher
Priory House, Wroslyn Road, Freeland, Oxfordshire. OX29 8HR
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