CFP: [20th] New Directions in Age Studies: Exploring Exits from the Narrative of Decline

full name / name of organization: 
Centre for Gender and Diversity

Points of Exit:
New Directions in Age Studies: Exploring Exits from the Narrative of

On Thursday, March 19, and Friday, March 20, 2009, the Centre for Gender
and Diversity, Maastricht University, the Netherlands, will mark its ten-
year anniversary with a conference entitled Points of Exit: (Un)
conventional Representations of Age, Parenting, and Sexuality. The
conference aims to examine the potential deconstruction of conventional
scripts of age, parenting, and sexuality.

For one of the panels, entitled New Directions in Age Studies: Exploring
Exits from the Narrative of Decline, we invite papers that deal with the
following theme:

In modern western societies, the modeling of the human life course is
characterized by a fixed chronology. It takes the shape of a stairway or
curve based on complementary and hierarchically structured stages of age.
This curve peaks in mature adulthood and gradually moves downwards
according to the development into old age. The stage of old age is seen
as an inevitable phase of decline, i.e. of mental and physical ordeal,
and, as such, legitimizes the social construction of a defined age class
on seemingly pure biomedical grounds. Stereotyping the ageing process as
a period of decline has severe repercussions on the individual experience
of old age and fosters ageism or discrimination against the aged on a
structural and everyday basis.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette has repeatedly scrutinized the master
narrative of decline and clarified the meanings of age and its different
stages as cultural phenomena (Declining to Decline, Aged by Culture). She
pleads passionately for age studies as a multidisciplinary research field
and movement of thought that bridges critical gerontology and cultural
studies by focusing on age as an identity marker similar to gender,
ethnicity, sexuality, class and nationality. By means of analyzing
cultural representations of old age Gullette illustrates how the
discourse of decline can be turned around. Other well-known scholars that
try to bridge the humanities and the study of aging and later life from a
social and gerontopsychological perspective have contributed
significantly to this critical practice. Outstanding examples are
Figuring Age, edited by Kathleen Woodward, and Anne Davis Basting’s The
Stages of Age.

This panel would like to focus on possible points of exit from the age
ideology of decline, on revisions of the master narrative of decline in
cultural artifacts such as film, literary fiction, theater
performance, ... In particular, the question arises how pitfalls like
falling into an optimistic longing for one-sided progress narratives or
conceding to rather fashionable accounts of so-called aging successfully
can be avoided. Theoretical insights into the tasks, possibilities and
new directions of today’s ageing studies as well as specific case-studies
in which the notion of decline is questioned are welcomed.

Send in a 500-word abstract and a short bio to
(subject heading: “New Directions in Age Studies”) before November 1,

We aim at publishing a selection of conference papers in a special issue
of a peer-reviewed journal.

For further information on the Points of Exit conference, see:

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Received on Wed Oct 01 2008 - 05:31:41 EDT