1st Edition

Ageing in Africa Sociolinguistic and Anthropological Approaches

Edited By Sinfree Makoni, Koen Stroeken Copyright 2002

    African gerontology has expanded dramatically as a discipline with population ageing and its consequences for societies and for individual experiences of ageing becoming prominent issues all over the continent. This volume therefore brings together some of the most prolific and skilful researchers working on ageing in Africa today. The book is based on sociolinguistic and anthropological research conducted in different regions of Southern Africa, West and East Africa, and in different types of communities, rural, urban and nomadic. Hence the book is able to adopt a pan-African slant to issues about ageing. The data and their interpretation are characterized by the richness, typicity and authenticity of both narratives and ethnographical fieldwork. Because the authors aim to present insider views and experiences of ageing in Africa from these diverse contexts, the book is able to distil common and variable aspects of ageing in Africa. These permit a formulation of critical models of ageing which are sensitive to the elderly person’s experience and to the dynamics of the historical contexts in which are sensitive to the elderly person’s experience and to the dynamics of the historical contexts in which elderly persons have lived. Critical models of ageing appear to shed a new light on the social change that affects all of us today. (e.g. post-apartheid, post-colonialism). The volume includes an introduction to the study of ageing, which proposes a conceptual apparatus that is transdisciplinary and cross-cultural. It also includes a concluding chapter sketching future directions of research and policy. The volume is divided into three sections: (1) Narratives and the construction of elderliness; (2) Cross-cultural perspectives on ageing and seniority; and (3) Crises and strategies of elderhood. The contributions employ a number of methodological approaches, ranging from discursive and literary analyses, to anthropological studies. The chapters in

    Contents: Introduction: Towards transdisciplinary studies on Ageing in Africa, Sinfree Makoni and Koen Stroeken. Narratives and the Construction of Elderliness: Towards a cultural and linguistic construction of late-life dementia in an urban African population, Monica Ferreira and Sinfree Makoni; Identity management and old age construction among Xhosa-speakers in urban South Africa: complaint discourse revisited, Andreas Sagner; Imprints of history and economy across the life course of an elderly Namaqualander 1920-1996, Robin Oakley. Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Ageing and Seniority: From shrub to log: the ancestral dimension of elderhood among the Sukuma of Tanzania, Koen Stroeken; Coming of age and authority: milk as a source of power in Himbaland, Northern Namibia, Steven Van Wolputte; Social categories and seniority in a house-based society, Alexis B. Tengan. Crises and Strategies of Elderhood: Holding up the sky: gender, age and work among the Abuluyia of Kenya, Maria G. Cattell; Rhetoric of remembrance: privileged authority of the elders and the contested graduations of seniority, Stella Nyanchama-Okemwa; ’They don’t listen’: contemporary respect relations between Zulu grandmothers and grandchildren, Valerie Møller and Ayanda Sotshongaye; The toilet: dignity, privacy and care of elderly people in Kwahu, Ghana, Sjaak van der Geest; ’They do talk to us like children’: language and intergenerational discourse in first-time encounters in an African township, Sinfree Makoni; Skeletons of the past, flesh and blood of the present: remembrance and older people in a South African context, Els van Dongen; Epilogue: African gerontology: critical models, future directions, René Devisch, Sinfree Makoni and Koen Stroeken; Dedication; Index.


    Sinfree Makoni, Long Island University, New York, USA Koen Stroeken, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

    ’The contributions to this volume demonstrate the acutely ambivalent position of elderliness in postcolonial society. Lying at the very heart of globalizing, monetarizing and nation-building pressures in Africa south of the Sahara, social relations between elders and youth have undergone radical changes in the last decades. In its richly detailed, multidisciplinary approach, the volume not only shows how diverse the outcomes have been in different societies on the continent, but also poignantly elicits the current resilience of 'elderhood' in offering contemporary strategies to cope with societal crises. This skilfully compiled work is an important contribution to the emerging field of African gerontology and should be of major interest to both scholars and policy makers concerned with Africa and its prospects. This volume vividly portrays the shifting roles and experiences of the elderly, both male and female, in Africa south of the Sahara. Stimulating and accessible reading for anyone interested in the spectrum of specificities and continuities of the elderly in the increasingly divided or wounded local worlds of entangled modernities.’ Professor René Devisch, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium ’Anyone engaged in the struggle to improve the quality of life for elder persons or the search for a deeper understanding of ageing would find this book an enriching addition to gerontological and Africanist scholarship.’ Canadian Journal on Ageing