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Aging and Loss
Mourning and Maturity in Contemporary Japan
Jason Danely (Author)
246 pages, 1 map, 8 illustrations, 6 x 9
Series: Global Perspectives on Aging
Anthropology, Asian Studies
By 2030, over 30% of the Japanese population will be 65 or older, foreshadowing the demographic changes occurring elsewhere in Asia and around the world. What can we learn from a study of the aging population of Japan and how can these findings inform a path forward for the elderly, their families, and for policy makers?
Based on nearly a decade of research, Aging and Loss examines how the landscape of aging is felt, understood, and embodied by older adults themselves. In detailed portraits, anthropologist Jason Danely delves into the everyday lives of older Japanese adults as they construct narratives through acts of reminiscence, social engagement and ritual practice, and reveals the pervasive cultural aesthetic of loss and of being a burden.
Through first-hand accounts of rituals in homes, cemeteries, and religious centers, Danely argues that what he calls the self-in-suspense can lead to the emergence of creative participation in an economy of care. In everyday rituals for the spirits, older adults exercise agency and reinterpret concerns of social abandonment within a meaningful cultural narrative and, by reimagining themselves and their place in the family through these rituals, older adults in Japan challenge popular attitudes about eldercare. Danely’s discussion of health and long-term care policy, and community welfare organizations, reveal a complex picture of Japan’s aging society.
"Devoid of academic jargon, Aging and Loss addresses several key theoretical questions in anthropology today. Its elegant prose makes it accessible to wider audiences, attesting to the power of ethnographic storytelling as a form of knowledge-making."
"Danely tackles the complex topic of aging and loss with a great sense of tact and sensitivity. He addresses the topic by employing a skillful analysis of folk stories, films, and delicately conducted interviews … Far from being dry ethnography, this book is written in a poetic and emotive voice. Yet the pictures of aging in Japan are far from overly optimistic."
—New Asia Books
"Jason Danely’s book represents an excellent contribution to our understanding of aging in Japan and provides an important exploration of the intersection of religion and aging."
—John Traphagan, professor of religious studies, University of Texas at Austin
"Aging and Loss is a mournful book that treats loss as both a space of emptiness and a temporality of creativity. Achingly beautiful about aging and death in a country where both are rising today."
—Anne Allison, author of Precarious Japan
Author / Editor Bio
JASON DANELY is a senior lecturer of anthropology at Oxford Brookes University and editor in chief of the journal Anthropology and Aging.
Table Of Contents
Part I: Loss
1 Loss, Abandonment, and Aesthetics
2 The Weight of Loss: Experiencing Aging and Grief
Part II: Mourning
3 Landscapes of Mourning: Constructing Nature and Kinship
4 Temporalities of Loss: Transience and Yielding
5 Passing it on: Circulating Aging Narratives
Part III: Abandonment and Care
6 Aesthetics of Failed Subjectivity
Part IV: Hope
7 Care and Recognition: Encountering the Other World
8 The Heart of Aging: An Afterword