Prof John Vincent 'The Politics of Death Itself: Cultural contest over old age through the lens of anti-ageing science and technology'
SpeakersProf John Vincent, Department of Sociology, University of Exeter
VenueUniversity of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJRoom no: GF7, Byrne House
Time: 3:30 - 5:00 PM
In the late 20C the science of ageing achieved what looked like a number of significant breakthroughs reinvigorating attempts to create mechanisms for the avoidance of biological ageing and raising the spectre of the scientific abolition of the need to die of old age. The anti-ageing movement is a diverse set of people ranging from hard scientists in well funded established university based laboratories, through slick corporate marketing executives, to new age hippy entrepreneurs peddling herbal elixirs. The movement has attracted anti-anti-ageing critical comment much of which has been moral critique located in philosophy and religion, some of which has been from established scientists in the field of biology and gerontology, and some has stemmed from the third age movement which has sort to re-evaluate the post-work phase of life. This paper looks at the question ‘what is different about dying in old age in the contemporary West?’ It does so by examining how cultural understanding of death has changed across cultures and over time and in particular by looking at recent historical changes to the way biology and medicine have understood ageing and dying. I will explore contemporary trends by visiting work of Rose on 'the politics of life itself' and Céline LaFontaine on ‘La Société Post-Mortelle’. I will conclude by identifying political contests through which anti-ageing movement and the biologisation of old age dominates and restricts older people from achieving a culturally valued final part to life.