Care in Interaction: Aging, Personhood, and Meaningful Decline

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Abstract

Care, as it is instantiated through interaction, can both perform and shape cultural and moral understandings of what it means to be a person in the world. American Catholic nuns have been found to age more “successfully” than their peers. However, in contrast to the successful aging paradigm, an analysis of care interactions from research conducted in a Franciscan Catholic convent in the Midwestern United States reveals that the nuns practice an ideal of meaningful decline. I explore how linguistic analysis of care interactions evidence ideologies of personhood and aging, and how a model of meaningful decline (the notion that valuable personhood endures beyond productivity) is instantiated through interaction.

Disciplines

  • Anthropology

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