Understanding the vital emergence and expression of aging: How matter comes to matter in gerontology's posthumanist turn
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Recent years have witnessed the beginnings of a posthumanist turn in critical/cultural gerontology. This is a turn that is partly demanded by, and provides means for illuminating, the posthuman social condition that older people experience in the twenty-first century. That has incorporated contributions from a range of theoretical and empirical traditions including new materialisms, non-representational theory, science and technology studies, arts, performance and sensory studies. A turn that, decentring the human subject, has envisaged aging as a distributed process involving multiple interacting living/biological and material/technological actors and excessive forces. This paper describes three ontological understandings of the vital emergence and expression of aging that the turn has ultimately generated (aging emerging and expressed through relational material assemblages; aging enacted and performed by open vital bodies with vibrant objects; aging in immediate, pre-personal, more-than-representational space-times). It then describes how, rather than being sidelined, four longstanding humanistic concerns have been reimagined in scholarship in 'more-than-human', 'other-than-fully conscious' terms (meaning, disadvantage, agency, communication). It is suggested that together these understandings and reimaginings constitute an open theory on aging, and a possible way to frame future studies. However, acknowledging that there is still much to do, the paper concludes with some thoughts on future challenges and possibilities for posthumanist research on aging.
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