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Past Event

Viewing the body as an (almost) ageing thing

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The question of whether we have or whether we are our bodies remains a problem of concern as much to the humanities as to the sciences.  This talk reconsiders the question and its relevance to the study of ageing.  After outlining some of the dilemmas posed by Descartes concerning the relationship between bodies selves and persons, I go on to review more recent explorations of body identity and body ownership, particularly those undertaken within experimental and clinical neuroscience.  Drawing on this background I turn to a central metaphor in social gerontology, that of the mask of ageing, which considers the gap between an 'inside' and an 'outside' agedness.   Rather than assume that such a mask represents a form of bad faith, or a gap between personal and social identities, I suggest instead that it can be understood as the 'normal abnormality' of ageing.  Drawing upon de Beauvoir’s notion of the 'unrealisability' of old age, I propose that age, old age, possesses an irreducible corporeal objectivity, whereby the body, as much as society,  ‘others’ an otherwise ageless self.  

About the Speaker

Dr Chris Gilleard, Division of Psychiatry

UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences

Chris Gilleard is Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences at the University of Bath and the Division of Psychiatry at University College London. He has published in the areas of psychology, medicine, history and sociology as they relate to ageing and old age. He is also a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.


This event is part of a seminar series:

Hilary 2020 Seminar Series: The Construction of Ageing

The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, Oxford’s Humanities and Healthcare programme and the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life are co-hosting a seminar series on The Construction of Ageing.  While ageing is often considered a biological process, what it means to be young or old, youthful or elderly, is inevitably socially constructed. This suggests that ther...

Event Details

11 February 2020 16:00 - 17:00


Christ Church, Oxford University

Christ Church, St. Aldates, Oxford, OX1 1DP