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*SEG/SAA Swiss Anthro Ass 2018: Knowledge (Trans-)formations... [ Zurück ]

22.11. - 23.11.2018
Tagungen DE-AT-CH

Zusätzliche Infos

Auch diesmal wieder medizinethnologisch relevante Panels:

Hier von Piet van Eeuwijk mitgeteilt:

Dear all,

we invite paper proposals for the panel 'Knowledge of and in Elder Care: Anthropological Encounters with Care and Knowledge' at the Annual Conference of the Swiss Anthropological Association 'Knowledge (Trans)Formations in Anthropology' (, to be held in Zürich (Switzerland), 22-23 November 2018.

The submission deadline is 30 June 2018. Prospective panel participants are kindly requested to submit their paper proposals including an abstract of max. 2'000 characters using the digital forms only, which you can reach using this link:

Knowledge of and in Elder Care: Anthropological Encounters with Care and Knowledge

Panel organizer: Piet van Eeuwijk (UNIBS and UNIZH)

Keynote: Tba

Care understood as both social practice and cultural concept is inherently interrelated to knowledge. Human care is a rich body of knowledge creation and of manifold knowledge manifestations. Knowledge shapes not only close kin care relations and care arrangements, but also professional competence and hierarchies in institutionalised care.

In elder care, knowledge – and in particular authoritarian biomedical expert knowledge – correlates in ambivalent way with A) the experience-grounded and -driven lay knowledge of caregivers and care-receivers and B) the ethical knowledge of care as moral practice dealing with emotion, love, hope, fear, uncertainty, need and dependency. Care and knowledge in that sense represent this ‘everyday’ in mutual antagonism (Das 2010) where older persons in need of care and their carers try to gain control in their daily struggle for a ‘good life’. Professional expertise and competence are powerful notions in care relations – such as the analysis of evident diagnostic results or the cognition of the efficacy of pharmaceuticals – and try to govern an appropriate ‘science-based’ elder care regime. But how about the ethics of elder care where chronification of diseases, immobilising frailty and disability, burdening dying and death and corresponding moral emotions are outside the realm of biomedical discourses and thus of scientific knowledge (Park & Akello 2017)?

Both in Global North and Global South, lay people are the main caregivers in elder care arrangements. Their lay or popular knowledge is created in a threefold agentic way – caregiving as past experience, as current application and as projection into the future – and reflects thus the notion of (idealized) care morality including social proximity, solidarity and interdependency. However, this lay elder care – whether established in kin, non-kin or mixed and inter-, intragenerational or combined care arrangements – is challenged by two major ‘streams of expectation’, namely the quest of older care-receivers A) for a comprehensive, yet more reliable and supportive psycho-emotional humane lay care, and at the same time B) for a stronger direct commitment of biomedicine for their impairments and by this the provision of a body-centred elder care based on medical expert knowledge. By means of authoritative, evidence-based medical knowledge which, however, transfers the responsibility for everyday (health) care to lay people, elder care experiences currently and globally an increasing medicalization through a scientific knowledge-based disciplining of both the elderly person in need of care and his/her lay caregiver(s) – but under exclusion of the moral perspectives of elder care.

Care embraces manifold practices which challenge conventional approaches of anthropological empirical methods. Many facets of elder care are invisible, incorporeal and nonverbal; elder care, moreover, encompasses both good and bad care that ranges from real compassion to negligence and abuse (Mol, Moser & Pols 2010). Not only pets, robots, smartphones, but also hospital nurses and medical technical devices provide direct elder care such as a life-prolonging dialyse machine (Mol 2008). Elder care is intrinsically associated with personal sensitivities and intimate occurrences – ‘care realities’ that are per se kept as undisclosed, unseen ‘practices’ within a strictly limited private, moral and also gendered space. Finally, elder care in institutions as well as formalized elder care represent not only a tough terrain for anthropological studies, but also a field of potential ‘clash of knowledge’ in particular between the varying carers. The issue of the researcher’s positionality in these contested fields becomes a very challenging one.

In conclusion, we may raise some further questions emerging from above introduction. Whose knowledge counts in elder care? Is knowledge in care per se an antagonism to morality, ethics and also emotions and love in care? How does lay knowledge in care harmonize with professional and also institutionalized elder care provision? Does transfer of knowledge occur in elder care and, if yes, in which direction(s) and which kind of knowledge? Which knowledge is created in elder care relations? Who judges what the ‘right’ knowledge is in elder care? How do lay caregivers deal with expert knowledge (and vice versa)? How much is knowledge in elder care gendered? How can anthropology capture methodologically the many facets of elder care such as invisible, intimate phenomena and emotions or sensations? We invite papers which not only deal with these particular stated questions, but also go beyond them, whether in Global South or in Global North.