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B19 Ageing in a Transcultural Context

Ageing in a Transcultural Context

Coordination: Christiane Brosius, Axel Michaels, Andreas Kruse


Advertisement, Axis Bank, Delhi 2013
photo: A.Mayer

Advertisement, Axis Bank, Delhi 2013
photo: A.Mayer

This interdisciplinary research group – including Christiane Brosius (Visual and Media Anthropology, HCTS), Axel Michaels (Indology, SAI), Andreas Kruse (Gerontology, Institute of Gerontology), Roberta Mandoki and Annika Mayer (Cultural Anthropology, HCTS) – focused on ageing in a transcultural urban context.

Asia witnesses drastic demographic dynamics and asymmetries in the structures of ageing. As longevity and urbanisation are simultaneously on the rise there is a strong need for urban ethnography that captures the experience of ageing within cities. The research group reflected the transcultural entanglements that take place as Euro-American concepts of generation, family, age and ageing have travelled to India and Nepal and the other way around. Transcultural entanglements are a rich repository to examine – and further challenge – the often proclaimed view that with “modernization” and “westernization” the respect for old people has vanished and multigenerational household or joint families allegedly have eroded. Far from being deteriorated, the generations have taken new steps to renegotiate and invest in the intergenerational contract. Notions such as “global”, “modern” or “Western” are both embraced and rejected, depending on the context.

To gain new insights into the imagination of ageing in a transcultural context media representations as repositories of narratives and representations, sounding boards and catalysts of social change and geronto-imaginaries played a crucial role in the subprojects. Media imaginaries are arguably the most prominent signifier of what appears to be a globalizing narrative of ageing. At the same time, careful analysis of a wide range of media cultures across disciplinary boundaries provided a more differentiated understanding when mainstream representations and narratives of ageing are juxtaposed against their trans/local reception, and studied through a necessary transmediality of hitherto marginalised media texts and sources in diverse formats of film, television soaps, magazines, advertisement or online media channels.
These objectives allowed the researchers to capture discrepant experience of ageing between highly dynamic social imaginaries and mobility on the one hand and relatively slowly changing inter-generational discourses and narratives, on the other. The research group therefore employed the tools of critical media anthropology and ethnography to study how globalizing scripts of generativity need to be critiqued or adapted under the conditions of the developmental states, high-speed urbanisation and transitioning consumer societies of (South) Asia. One of the key foci was India's capital Delhi, another the urbanizing region of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.

The research group is cooperating with the Global Aging Network Institute for European Global Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland.

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External members

Rajendra Shakya


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Christiane Brosius, Roberta Mandoki and Annika Mayer have taught a seminar on ageing in South Asia in the summer term of 2015. For more information, please check here.

Moreover, the project has organized the Studium Generale Lecture Series of 2015, „Anders Altern – Kulturelle Vielfalt und Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten“, in the Aula of the Neue Universität. The schedule can be found here.