1st Global Conference
Times of our Lives: Making Sense Of Ageing
Friday 3rd July - Sunday 5th July 2009
Mansfield College, Oxford
Call for Papers
We age from the moment we are born. The changes we
undergo are complex, multifaceted and, above all,
inevitable. From a biological perspective,
these changes follow a broad pattern that applies
to everyone (the exceptions being regarded as
abnormal). However, human development does
not happen in the body alone; it happens in life,
in the bio-social sphere that is our natural
habitat. The developmental sequence which is
known as the 'life-course' does have physiological
bench-marks that both enable and constrain action,
but its nature and the significance of its phases
depend on how the typical events of the life span
are interpreted by culture and understood by individuals.
Thus, for example, we know that 'age' as a
descriptive concept can be applied to any number
of situations ˆ and, at the same time, we also
implicitly understand that 'ageing' normally
refers to the later part of life, the part that
follows 'middle age'. In the so-called developed
societies, 'ageing' and 'old age' have for some
time represented a special field of study, both
for distinct disciplines and for interdisciplinary
and multi-disciplinary approaches. Most research
in this area has tended to be focused on specific
problems, on difficulties posed for both social
systems and individual experience that can occur
in the last two to three decades of life (in terms
of current life-expectancy; notably, this was not always so).
Such research is abundant. Much useful knowledge
has been produced; however, the rich and full
meaning of human ageing in the context of the
life-course as a whole has often been overlooked.
By and large, this has also been the case with the
generally accepted phases of the life-course
(infancy and childhood, adolescence, middle
age, old age). Inquiry has tended to considered
them in isolation, except for studies of
transitions between one phase and another. It is
true that life-course perspective as a theoretical
paradigm has made some inroads into the study of
people's lives in temporal and social contexts.
Inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches have been
called for and are emerging. In Europe and North
America, there have been some
advancements, as evidenced in recently published
compendia (e.g. Mortimer and Shanahan 2004,
Handbook of the Life Course, Springer;
Johnson 2005, The Cambridge Handbook of Age and
Ageing, CUP) within the framework of psychology
and sociology. Overall, however, not much
cross-fertilisation has occurred in research, as
contemporary structural and institutional
constraints stand in the way of such developments.
Making Sense Of : Human Ageing as a continuing
project seeks to bring together varied approaches
to the study and contemplation of the
life-course, the aim being the establishment of a
forum for conversations among disciplines and
areas of interest. All manner of dialogue will be
encouraged: for example, researchers in the field
of childhood and old age, say, could explore and
discuss literary and psychiatric approaches and,
perhaps, find common ground; or, historians
might confer about adolescence and senescence in
the same breath, as it were, along the way
generating new insights about the changing
vicissitudes of the human condition; and so on.
Thus our project necessarily has a very broad
brief. This is deliberate, allowing participants
to develop their interests and, over time, hone
the parameters of the project. The activities of
the project will be reviewed regularly in order to
identify emergent new directions. Information
about our discussion forums and publications under
the aegis of this project will be available on the
We have identified a number of areas of interest
that are relevant to the Making Sense Of: Human
Ageing project. The following themes are
suggested for our first conference:
Aspects of the Life Course
* the meaning of age: biology meets culture
(or vice versa)
* the nature and meaning of life stages:
childhood, adulthood, old age in historical,
literary and philosophical perspectives
* the human Odyssey across cultures
* the life course in history, in art, in the
* images of human life: from 'life cycle' to
'life course' to 'trajectories'
* pathways in the life course: to work, to
family formation, to resignation, to metamorphosis
* one's life and the life-course ˆ same or
* forms of intimacy and the life course:
love, friendship family
* sex, gender and the life course
Childhood, Adulthood, Old Age
* changing parameters of 'youth' in
modernity: how and why?
* 'the child' through prisms of the arts and
* the 'end of childhood' thesis; does it hold?
* what is an 'adult'? Can 'adulthood' be
defined, and if so, how? How is it represented?
* reflections of ˆ and on ˆ 'young' in
literature and art (including music)
* images of old age in art
* wisdom and old age: fact or fiction?
* Like and old woman; old age as metaphor
* collective trauma and 'historical
generations' (e.g. 'The Great Depression')
* going forward, looking back: nostalgia for
times gone by
* generations X, Y, Z and...?
* relationships among age-groups: through
affection, authority, habit, need...?
* The 'generation gap': what (and where) is it?
* filial relations through the life course
* health and illness across generations: who
takes care of whom, and when?
Papers will be considered on any related theme.
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday
6th February 2009. If your paper is accepted for
presentation at the conference, an 8 page draft
paper should be submitted by Friday 5th June 2009.
300 word abstracts should be submitted to the
Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word,
WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this order:
author(s), affiliation, email address, title of
abstract, body of abstract
We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper
proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply
from us in a week you should assume we did
not receive your proposal; it might be lost in
cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an
alternative electronic route or resend.
Dr Harry Blatterer
Department of Sociology
School of Sociology and Social Anthropology, The
University of New South
Dr Rob Fisher
Network Founder and Network Leader
Priory House, Freeland, Oxfordshire OX29 8HR
The conference is part of the 'Making Sense Of: '
series of research projects, which in turn belong
to the 'Probing the Boundaries' programmes of
ID.Net. It aims to bring together people from
different areas and interests to share ideas and
explore various discussions which are innovative
and challenging. All papers accepted for and
presented at the conference will be published in
an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be invited to
go forward for development into 20-25 page
chapters for publication in a themed dialogic ISBN
hard copy volume.
For further details about the project please visit:
For further details about the conference please visit: