Grey matters

Journal of Aging and Identity (four times a year)
October 17, 1997

Ageing affects us all but relatively few academic journals are devoted to providing a better understanding of the process. The Journal of Aging and Identity focuses particularly on visual and literary representations of ageing in the arts and popular culture.

This multidisciplinary journal draws on literature, history, philosophy, religion and ethics, with the aim of creating a dialogue between the humanities and biomedical, psychological and sociological approaches to ageing.

Visual and literary representations are fundamental in shaping our attitudes towards ageing. The changing nature of representations reflects more fundamental changes in the societal position of older people. The challenge of postmodernity, in terms of the range and complexity of meanings and identities, is equally pertinent when considering the diversity of images of older people. But an unquestioning assumption is that the cultural milieu influences our actions and self-identity.

An underlying theme of the journal is to critique the supremacy of the biomedical model of ageing as a time of decline, disease and dependency. But the danger in recent years has been that an equally hegemonic model of successful, positive or productive ageing has emerged. The prevailing autonomy paradigm of self-direction and independence neglects interdependence and the importance of "being" over "doing". This journal identifies and contrasts these alternative cultural images and metaphors of old age.

Many articles examine the images of ageing in fiction, such as in D. H. Lawrence, Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf, and in film and contemporary art. Others report on empirical research studies of older people, focusing on their perceptions of aspects of their own ageing process and identity. Most use qualitative methodology to probe in depth into meanings and emphasise that older people are the subjects rather than the objects of research. However, there remain questions over the quality of some of the research reported in regard to the often small numbers of subjects and the rigour of the analysis and interpretation by authors.

The journal is very American in outlook and is published from the University of South Florida at Tampa, with an almost exclusively American editorial board and authorship of articles in the first five issues.

The issues are relatively slight, each comprising four or five short (5,000 to 6,000-word) articles. The book reviews section remains undeveloped. Some issues have no book reviews, others have some short reviews by a single reviewer, or a very long single book review, with reviewers almost entirely drawn from Florida.

If the Journal of Aging and Identity is to make any impact on the academic landscape it needs to be less parochial in its choice of authors and reviewers. Its aims are very laudable and it has the potential of filling a gap in the market, but it may sink without trace unless it secures a more international authorship and a somewhat higher standard of content.

Sara Arber is professor of sociology, University of Surrey.

Journal of Aging and Identity (four times a year)

Editor - Lagretta Tallent Lenker and Larry Polivka
ISBN - ISSN 1087 3732
Publisher - Human Sciences Press
Price - $110.00 (institutions)$41.00 (individuals)
Pages - -

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