Time in late modern ageing

Authored by: Jan Baars

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415631143
eBook ISBN: 9780203097090
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221033


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Human ageing always takes place in time and in particular cultures. This basic acknowledgment implies that both ‘culture’ and ‘time’ are concepts that are fundamental for any study of ageing, requiring cultural and temporal reflexivity in scholarly approaches to the subject. Although we may accept that any definition of ‘culture’ or ‘time’ will be embedded in a particular culture, even the acknowledgment that all cultures are different presupposes a general concept of culture, otherwise we would not know what to compare. Moreover, time and culture presuppose each other: each culture originates and changes in time, and cultures influence the ways in which concepts, theories, metaphors or practices regarding time are articulated. Before we can do anything, we are already living (in) culture and (in) time. This does not mean that it would be futile to try to clarify what ‘culture’ or ‘time’ might be, but we have to be aware that there will always remain a certain blindness regarding our own position because we cannot see our own eyes, as Wittgenstein (1974: 5.633) remarked. In theories of cultures this is hardly an irrelevant academic observation as examples of ethnocentrism have been abundant; the tendency to see what we have been accustomed to as ‘normal’ and anything deviant as ‘abnormal’ or even ‘unnatural’ has left its destructive traces throughout history (Fabian 1983). As we will see, seemingly self-evident cultural orientations can have important implications for ageing persons.

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