Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2022
In Mr Coetzee's story, the mother tells her son to be careful with language. ‘Take care of…Be careful, John. In some circles take care of means dispose of, means put down, means give a humane death.’ (Douglas, 2013, emphasis in original)
This collection presents fascinating, alarming, yet appealing research. Even a superficial reading of the chapters in this volume suggests enormous dilemmas in providing social and health care for older people in contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – now, at this moment, and even more so in the near future. Whose priority is care provision? Where should funding come from? What is needed in terms of good care? (What is good care anyway?) Where can necessary capacities be found? Who is helping and who should be? What of older people's responsibilities to take care of themselves? Who is ultimately responsible or should be made accountable? What are actual care practices? All these questions are essential to our understanding of care in SSA, but after a deep reading of all the respective contributions the overarching question is: what is the meaning of all of this on a broader more conceptual level? How do we bridge the gap between this mostly descriptive, localised research and a common discourse on good but affordable long-term care for older people in need? As raised in the Introduction, how do we transcend the increasing tendency of microfication of social research on ageing as pointed out by Hagestad and Dannefer (2001)?
In order to develop at least a starting point towards a common discourse of contemporary care for older people in SSA, my immediate aim is to offer, based on the contributions in this volume as a unit of analysis, a conceptual next step by utilising discourse analyses to better understand the challenges of long-term care for older people in SSA towards possible interventions. I draw on the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1977; 1980; 2003) who, step by step, developed a concept of discourse that can be summarised as: ‘systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs and practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which they speak’ (see Lessa, 2006).