Gullette, M. M. (2022). Reflections on the Turn to Ageism in Contemporary Cultural Discourse. Theory, Culture & Society
Distinguished gerontologists, ‘guardians of later life’ who had long kept age and ageism at the heart of their work, were asked by the author why the turn to ageism had not been able to raise age consciousness more effectively in the media or the public. Their frank responses constitute a valuable archive of reflections about how intersectional concepts and activist passions develop in an emerging and contentious multi-disciplinary field. The essay further situates their learned critiques in the history of age studies over the last 30 years. Among the sorrowful and galvanizing revelations provoked by the Eldercide of the COVID-19 era is this: ‘ageism’ has become widely recognized as a keyword not only good to think with but necessary to act on.
“Major intellectual and theoretical weaknesses got in the way of discovering ageisms wherever they lurked. Stuart Hall wrote that, thanks to Foucault and Gramsci, ‘the sense of the concrete historical instance . . . has always been one of culturalism’s principal strengths’ (2019: 67). But were enough people who considered themselves gerontologists or age critics well trained as ‘culturalists’ (in a broad sense that could include symbolic and material factors and power relations)?”