Dissertation Abstracts

Spaces of (non)ageing: a discoursive study of inequalities we live by

Author: Wilinska, Monika , monika.wilinska@ju.se
Department: Research School of Health and Welfare
University: Jönköping University, Sweden
Supervisor: Elisabet Cedersund
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: discourse , ageing , inequality , welfare state


This dissertation examines processes and practices that make certain social categories real in people’s lives. One of these categories is old age and old people. In contemporary societies that are inundated by images of youth, old age is under attack. Old age does not fit into the contemporary framework of idealised lifestyle and images of perfect people. Thus, the main question addressed in this dissertation concerns spaces of ageing, which are societal arenas in which people are expected and/or allowed to become old.

This study investigates discourses of old age within the context of welfare. It describes actions, statements and attitudes related to old age within the context of the welfare state. The study is based on multiple data that include 121 opinion weekly news magazines articles, social policy observations, and two case studies of a non-governmental and a user-organisation. The method of analysis comprises two approaches to discourse: discourse analysis and analysis of discourses. The study adopts a perspective that highlights the contextual, emotional and unstable character of welfare states that undergo constant processes of change. It notes the process of people production based on instilling in them norms and principles that should govern their lives.

The findings of the study illustrate the lack of spaces of ageing in the welfare state context. People are expected not to grow old, and old age remains a misunderstood phenomenon. Therefore, spaces of( non-)ageing are invoked to elaborate on these processes. Spaces of (non-)ageing occur in various societal domains and show what is required to avoid becoming old. Spaces of (non-)ageing frame the idea of old age as something terrifying and, in many cases, immoral.

The findings of this study are discussed in relation to the processes and practices of inequality (re)production. The complexity and mulitperspectivity of understanding such phenomena are taken into consideration. The study invites a perspective of ‘us’ from which to examine social inequalities, and ‘we’ who think and feel at the same time.

This dissertation is written from a perspective of knowledge, which is always plural, changing and fluid. Therefore, the results are discussed in terms of the production of some knowledges about the researched phenomenon but not as an exhaustive study. The final sections of the dissertation are devoted to a cross-study discussion of new ways of interpreting and describing the research material presented in four sub-studies. This discussion does not aim at obtaining better or more correct results; instead, it aims at presenting a different aspect of these results. It acknowledges different spatial and temporal locations and the ways in which these locations affect the production of knowledge.

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