Third International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology

10-12 June 2001 in Visby, Sweden

International symposia on cultural gerontology have been organized by the Danish Institute of Gerontology, in Copenhagen in 1997 and the German Institute for Research on Old Age, in Berlin in 1999. In 2001, the Swedish Gerontological Society will be the host, and have chosen the town of Visby as the site for the third symposium in the series. The purpose of this symposia series is to identify and describe the field of cultural studies of elderly people. This symposium will concentrate on the theme ”The Cultural Context of Aging. Generalized versus Particularized Knowledge”.

Cultural context of aging. Generalized versus particularized knowledge

During the past decades the issue of culture has gained considerable attention within the humanities and social sciences in general as well as in the field of gerontology. Gerontology is a multidisciplinary international world used to adopting new perspectives and grafting them onto core disciplines like sociology, psychology and social anthropology. The new perspectives widen, of course, the scope of gerontology, but branch out in different directions and without interconnections. There is need for a forum in which cultural gerontology studies can be discussed.

The topics for discussion will be the growth of gerontology as a discipline within the academic culture, the development and discussions about the concept of ’ageism’ as socio-cultural concept, the identity politics concerning older persons perceived as belonging to a separate culture, subculture or ’other’ culture, and finally images of the older body in cultural perspective.

These may at first sight seem to be unrelated topics, but there are interrelations. The manner in which gerontology emerged as a discipline in the 1940’s and 50’s was embedded in culturally defined views of developmental psychology that had consequences for how ageing was seen to vary between cultures at varying stages of socio-economic growth. One consequence was a perception of ’ageism’ in the 1970’s as a cultural construction of certain levels of social and economic development, such as the welfare state or industrial society. It remains to be seen whether the cultural construction of ’ageism’ lead to a specific ’culture’ of age discrimination. Since the 1980’s, much of the politics of older pensioners, older women, of ethnic and minority aged are a form of ’identity politics’ in which groups are mobilized to further their interests. In this context questions of cultural meanings ascribed to the gendered aging body in late modernity is a central question for ageism, social identity and self-image. These questions become especially relevant in confrontations with bodily decline and negotiations of intimacy in institutions for older people. Thus many of the disparate academic, political and social issues fall under the overall umbrella of the ’culture of ageism’.

This symposium will bring together different expert groups who have studied the culture of ageism, the cultural context of ageism and cultural consequences of ageism.

The Schedule  
Saturday June 9
12.00 Registration at the Wisby Hotel
15.00 Sightseeing
19.00 Reception
Sunday June 10
08.00-09.00 Registration at the Wisby Hotel
Introduction: Lars Andersson, Stockholm Gerontology Research Center, Sweden
The Growth of Gerontology: Towards a Wholistic Cultural Gerontology: The Contributions of the Humanities
Thomas R. Cole, University of Texas
Medical Branch, USA
Time to Pay Back? Is There Something for Psychology and Sociology in Gerontology?
Svein Olav Daatland, NOVA, Norway
Utilisation Patterns of Gerontology and the Dynamics of Knowledge Production
Hans-Joachim von Kondratowitz, Deutsches Zentrum für Altersfragen, Germany
12.00 Lunch break
Free paper sessions
Monday June 11 ”Forces/Counter-forces”
09.00-09.30  Registration at the Wisby Hotel
Ageism:  Positioning Gerontology in Relation to Ageism
Bill Bytheway, The Open University, United Kingdom
Ageism and Globalisation: Discrimination and Social Justice in Transnational Communities
Chris Phillipson, Keele University, United Kingdom
The Making of Elderly Immigrants in Sweden: Identification, Categorisation,Discrimination
Owe Ronström, Gotland University College, Sweden
12.00 Lunch break
Identity Politics: The Changing Nature of Political Identities in Later Life: Class and Gender
Sara Arber, University of Surrey, United Kingdom
The Secret World of Subcultural Ageing: What Unites and What Divides?
Andrew Blaikie, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
From the ”Veterans” of the Labour Struggle to the ”Outcasts” of the Welfare State. Self-identificatory Rhetoric Among Old Age Pensioners in Sweden 1930-1950
David Gaunt, University College of South Stockholm, Sweden
Tuesday June 12 ”The Gendered Ageing Body and the Institutionalized Ageing Body” 
09.00-09.30 Registration at the Wisby Hotel
Ageing, Body Image and Gender:  Ageing, Gender and Body Talk
Christopher Gilleard, St. George’s Hospital Medical School, London, United Kingdom
The Body Memories of Ageing Women in Health and Illness
Marja Saarenheimo, University of Tampere, Finland
The Ageing Body: Contradictory Images and the Privilege of Formulation
Peter Öberg, Uppsala University, Sweden
12.00 Lunch break
Institutional Culture and the Ageing Body: The Bodywork of Care
Julia Twigg, University of Kent at Canterbury, United Kingdom
  Going Concerns and ”Their” Bodies
Jay Gubrium, University of Florida, USA
Re-membered Bodies – Dis-membered Selves: The Discourse of the Institutionalized Old
Haim Hazan, Tel Aviv University, Israel

The site

Visby is situated on the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea, and is within easy reach from Stockholm. Few regions in the country can boast such wealth of ancient monuments, medieval churches (92), and exclusive natural surroundings as Gotland. In proportion to its area the island has the greatest abundance of treasure hoards in the world. Just a stone’s throw off the north coast lies Fårö, familiar to many even outside Sweden as the retreat of Ingmar Bergman and other cultural personalities.

People have been living in Visby for over five thousand years. During the 12th century, the town, previously a Viking trading station, developed into a leading commercial center for trade across the Baltic Sea. Because of its unique cultural values, Visby has been listed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage.

The symposium venue, Wisby Hotel, lies right in the center of old Visby. Much of the hotel’s decor bears witness to the Middle Ages, both pillars and vaulted ceilings.


For more information on the program contact Peter Öberg, Dept. of Sociology, University of Uppsala, Box 821, S-751 08 Uppsala, Sweden.
Telephone +46 18 4711196
Fax +46 18 4711170

For registration and more information on accommodation, payment etc contact Stockholm convention Bureau, ”ISCG”, P O BOX 6911, 102 39 Stockholm, Sweden. Fax no +46 8 54 65 15 99.