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Transitions and Transformations: Cultural Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course

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Volume 1

Life Course, Culture and Aging: Global Transformations

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Transitions and Transformations

Cultural Perspectives on Aging and the Life Course

Edited by Caitrin Lynch and Jason Danely
Afterword by Jennifer Cole, University of Chicago

280 pages, 16 illus. & tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-778-3 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (April 2013)

ISBN  978-1-78238-906-4 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (February 2015)

eISBN 978-0-85745-779-0 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


This volume is full of good writing, lively situations, some wonderful photos, revealing quotes and simulating ideas. Its readability makes it appealing as a text to be used widely in the undergraduate/graduate classroom… the current volume makes for excellent reading and launches the new Berghahn book series admirably.”  ·  Anthropology of Aging Quarterly Review

“…an important contribution to the field...excellent chapters within a comprehensive anthropological framework that touches on an increasingly important global demographic trend. The book counters the universalizing tendency of some disciplines to model aging after Western lifestyles.”  ·  Philip B. Stafford, University of Indiana

This is a well-crafted volume and an important addition to the literature on aging and the life course.  It provides an invaluable cross-cultural perspective that emphasizes how the life course is framed within a cultural context and how cultures change over time. The chapters focus on a large number of ethnographic cases and are organized well for use by students or professionals wanting an updated overview.”  ·  Dena Shenk, University of North Carolina Charlotte

This volume is a welcome addition to [the literature], particularly because it speaks to concerns in the cross-cultural study of aging and in anthropology.  It was a pleasure to read.”  ·  Peter Collings, University of Florida


Rapid population aging, once associated with only a select group of modern industrialized nations, has now become a topic of increasing global concern. This volume reframes aging on a global scale by illustrating the multiple ways it is embedded within individual, social, and cultural life courses. It presents a broad range of ethnographic work, introducing a variety of conceptual and methodological approaches to studying life-course transitions in conjunction with broader sociocultural transformations. Through detailed accounts, in such diverse settings as nursing homes in Sri Lanka, a factory in Massachusetts, cemeteries in Japan and clinics in Mexico, the authors explore not simply our understandings of growing older, but the interweaving of individual maturity and intergenerational relationships, social and economic institutions, and intimate experiences of gender, identity, and the body.

Caitrin Lynch is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and Visiting Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at Brandeis University.

Jason Danely is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rhode Island College and editor of the journal Anthropology and Aging Quarterly.

Subject: Medical Anthropology



Introduction: Transitions and Transformations: Paradigms, Perspectives, and Possibilities
Jason Danely and Caitrin Lynch

Chapter 1. Changes in the Life Course: Strengths and Stages
Mary Catherine Bateson


Chapter 2. Narrating Pain and Seeking Continuity: A Life-Course Approach to Chronic Pain Management
Lindsey Martin 

Chapter 3. Venting Anger From the Body During Gengnianqi: Meanings of Midlife Transition Among Chinese Women in Reform-Era Beijing
Jeanne L. Shea

Chapter 4. “I Don’t Want to Be Like My Father:” Masculinity, Modernity, and Intergenerational Relationships in Mexico
Emily Wentzell


Chapter 5. Shifting Moral Ideals of Aging in Poland: Suffering, Self-Actualization, and the Nation
Jessica C. Robbins

Chapter 6. A Window into Death: Euthanasia and End-of-Life in the Public-Private Space of the Dutch Home
Frances Norwood

Chapter 7. Temporality, Spirituality, and the Life Course in an Aging Japan
Jason Danely


Chapter 8. “I Have to Stay Healthy:” Elder Caregiving and the Third Age in a Brazilian Community
Diana De G. Brown

Chapter 9. Grandmothering in Life-Course Perspective:  A Study of Puerto Rican Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren in the United States
Marta B. Rodríguez-Galán

Chapter 10. Care Work and Property Transfers: Intergenerational Family Obligations in Sri Lanka
Michele Ruth Gamburd


Chapter 11. Personhood, Appropriate Dependence, and the Rise of Eldercare Institutions in India
Sarah Lamb

Chapter 12. Membership and Mattering: Agency and Work in a New England Factory
Caitrin Lynch

Chapter 13. Life Courses of Indebtedness in Rural Nigeria
Jane I. Guyer and Kabiru K. Salami

Afterword: On Generations and Aging: “Fresh Contact” of a Different Sort
Jennifer Cole

Contributors’ Bios

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