Advanced Care Research Centre

AGENET Conference – Mestre, 14/15 March

A number of the research fellows from WP4 went to a conference near Venice recently, and we felt compelled to write a short piece on our experience...

ACRC Research fellows Caroline Pearce, Jacob Sheahan, Nichole Fernández recently attended and presented at the EASA Age and Generation Network conference on “Kinning, Moving, and Growing in Later Life”, held at Ca' Foscari University. The two-day conference brought together both social anthropologists and interdisciplinary researchers such as ourselves to engage with topics of kinship (social care relations), movement (trans/national migrations), and growth (population ageing). For members of the ACRC entourage, who collaborated with PhD researchers Shivangi Patel (IIIT-Delhi) and Srishti Tripathi (University of Delhi) to develop our conference panel, the event served as an opportunity to explore new thinking and test our ideas with attendees from Europe as well as the Americas and Australasia. [NF1] [JS2] It also offered some much-needed time away from the wet and drab of Edinburgh to the inspiring sunning and warm tones of Venice’s canals and alleys.

Images of Venice

Arriving early at Ca' Foscari’s Campus Scientific (in Mestre, Venice’s mainland borough), we were greeted by attendees and espresso from the local canteen before moving into the main lecturer room for a welcome and the plenary debate. The plenary debate, addressing British anthropologist Marilyn Strathern’s notion of Future kinship, saw our representative Jacob take to the stage to explore the navigation of mediated kinship and care while ageing-in-place alongside other debaters. The debate raised some great thinking about how new forms of kinship intersect with issues of death and community. Following a swift coffee break (more espresso from the local canteen), the first two simultaneous panels began, exploring transnational trajectories and values of ageing well. The latter saw visual explorations of Chinese Americans during the pandemic (Shuting Li), as well as some revealing analysis of Brexit and COVID-based intergenerational angst (Cathrine Degnen), while visual sociologists got to enjoy an examination of healthy ageing imagery (Raffaella Ferrero Camoletto).

images from conference

After a most Italian lunch spent mingling with other attendees, we went onto the last two panels of the afternoon, on envisioning care and more-than-human dimensions of ageing. Again, the latter proved engaging as we heard PhD students conducting a longitudinal study of technology literacy in post-pandemic Italy (Francesco Diodati), taking a dog’s worldview on dementia in Scotland (Cristina Douglas), and futuring AgeTech for falling (Miguel Gomez Hernandez). Building on the morning’s kinship speculations, this panel began to crystallise how we might realise these new relations with the flora, fauna, and technical. With many weary after the first, energetic day, only Nichole went along to a workshop on visuality in anthropology to debate the ethical dilemmas and unintended consequences of representing ageing, care and the life course.


images from conference

The following day saw three sets of panels, with our own on reimagining care in later life rounding off the Friday afternoon. The morning saw engaging discussion around how those in later life engage with hope and potential to seek brighter futures (Natashe Lemos Dekker), while timely reminders of how intergenerational concepts of caring are re-shaping later life in Kyrgyzstan (Maria Louw), each providing new global perspectives. A following panel on growing old with animals further expanded on the prior day, highlighting the complicated role of robot pets in nursing homes (Simone Anna Felding), the undervaluing of older animals in care homes (Nete Schwennesen), and theatrical ways of encompassing play and expanding notions of pleasure through humans playing cat (Carla Besora Barti).

Images from Conference

As the final panel of the day, our panel presentations provided attendees with a broad understanding of care from environments that enable it (Caroline Pearce), efforts to reframe it in media narratives of later life (Nichole Fernández), and the growing notion of technology support as a form of care (Jacob Sheahan). In addition, panel members Shivangi and Srishti offered emerging learnings around transnational and spousal care relations from the Indian context. That evening, several attendees travelled across the island of Venice to soak up the culture and enjoy a meal to celebrate the engaging, rich, and experimental nature of the short but sweet anthropological conference on ageing.