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The nursing home has become a paramount site for the care and custody of
old people, but it also affects how we think and talk about the ageing body.
In this article, narrative and ethnographic material drawn from a variety of
care-related settings is used to illustrate how and where the nursing home
serves as a discursive anchor for embodiment. Circumstantial, local cultural,
and organisational mediations are considered, featuring institutionalisation to
be as much a descriptive phenomenon, as it is a residential relocation.
A central question of social research is how experience is given voice in everyday life. Conventional methodologies provide technical answers: Issues of contextuality and the socially constructive and narrative features of method are not so much analytic and critical concerns as they are construed as procedural problems. This paper considers the question in aging research. Two sides of an analytic tension are addressed as they bear on method, one centred on voice and narrative and the other on the contextuality of experience. Observational and narrative material from qualitative studies of adults and elderly people is used to argue that a focus on ordinary, narrative practice usefully sustains the tension to provide the basis for a critical empiricism.
The question ‘Who theorises age?’ is meant to draw attention to the everyday theorising about age and ageing engaged by ordinary men and women, which, it is argued, has striking parallels with the theoretical products of professional peers. Following a discussion of some phenomenological features of conventional theorising in the field of ageing, the process of ordinary theorising is illustrated from observational and narrative data gathered in a variety of human service institutions, home settings and small groups. Implications of the parallels for understanding the relation between ‘theory’ and ‘data’ are addressed and a programme suggested for linking ageing, gerontology, and the humanities.
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