Race, Ethnicity and Old Age: Re-animating Ageing Bodies of Colour | Dr Sweta Rajan-Rankin

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In this presentation, Dr Rajan-Rankin explores new ways in which we can theorize race, ethnicity and old age from an inter-disciplinary lens. Drawing on cultural gerontology (especially embodied ageing studies) and post-colonial perspectives on ageing; she explores how an emphasis on the body and embodiment can serve as a conceptual lens for understanding racialized ageing bodies. A tentative framework for analysis is proposed. The concept of exile explores how bodies of colour and older bodies are denigrated through the hegemonic (white, youth-centred, masculinist) gaze. Re-animation can take place by transcending double-consciousness: ‘seeing beyond’ the dominant gaze. Othering and otherness are explored in relation to both raced and ageing bodies. The limits of ethnic ageing is scrutinized at an epistemic level, simultaneously informing, and obscuring the understanding of lived experiences of racialized ethnic minorities in old age. De-coloniality is considered, especially by drawing on feminist approaches which challenge consumption cultures that perpetuate whiteness and ageist/ ableist discourses. Visible and invisible difference provide a way of unpacking the simultaneous hypervisibility of older (female) bodies of colour, and their invisibility in institutional and policy discourses. The presentation concludes with some provocations around the limits of intersectionality and whether a shift away from the Anthropocene to the assemblage, can resolve some of these tensions.

Dr Sweta Rajan-Rankin is a senior lecturer at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent. Originally from India, she trained as a professional social worker at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India’s premier social work institute. She also completed her PhD in social policy at Barnett House, University of Oxford. Her research is inter-disciplinary and draws on her liminal status as a sociologist and social worker.

Sweta’s research focusses primarily on race and ethnicity studies, racialization, body work, transnational service work and epistemologies of the Global South. She is also interested in theoretical linkages between race, ethnicity and later life, and racialized ageing experiences of people of colour in diasporic and homeland contexts. Dr Rajan-Rankin is the co-convenor of the British Sociological Association (BSA) Race and Ethnicity Study Group, UK.

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