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The Bodies of Older Adults: Media Imageries, (In)Visibility and Public Discourses on Older Persons’ Gendered Embodiment and Physicality

Panel: The Bodies of Older Adults: Media Imageries, (In)Visibility and Public Discourses on Older Persons’ Gendered Embodiment and Physicality

Convenors: Ladan Rahbari (Ghent University, Belgium and Flanders Research Foundation), Katrien De Graeve (Ghent University)

There is a lot of othering, marginalization and stigmatization involved in ways that the effects of age on human bodies are portrayed, represented and discussed in the public and media discourses.  There are also gendered and widespread negative perceptions on aging and its impact on sexuality, physicality and embodiment. In a large proportion of the existing public and media debates on bodily activity and enjoyment, the aging/aged body – especially that of women –  is problematized if not pathologized and medicalized. The changes in different forms of bodily abilities that older people might experience, are generally considered to incapacitate older people or equal dependence, and, what is more, changes in dependence are simultaneously problematized, as if it makes people somehow less worthy. This panel aims to bring together scholars who use critical perspectives that scrutinize the existing social perspectives, cultural beliefs, and political dynamics which render or represent older bodies as invisible, irrelevant and unruly and to discuss theoretical and practical solutions and counternarratives. The panel welcomes contributors who interrogate media imageries and public discourses on old persons’ gendered embodiment and physicality within any (trans)national context. We solicit papers that include – among other topics – the study of discourses on old age and physical activity, sports, body management and cosmetic practices, sexuality etc. with an anthropological approach. The panel conveners are affiliated with the Centre for Research on Culture and Gender (Ghent University).