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George, the dog

Babe, my grandpa, was born on the kitchen tiles of a small Seattle home. His dad, whose own grandpa had run a seedy downtown brothel, would disappear and reappear throughout his life. But Babe was not like the men who came before him. He spent his youth delivering newspapers and parking cars to support his mother, went to war when …

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Strangers in unfamiliar environments: Struggles for subjectivity in a dementia care ward

During fieldwork on dementia care in a nursing home, I was struck by the complex and layered orderings of space, time and subjectivity in daily life on the wards, and the struggle this implied for people with dementia.

On her ‘daily rounds’ strolling through the nursing home ward, Mrs Hansen repeatedly expressed great relief and pleasure on meeting a familiar …

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Refraction of daily life

Attending to what makes up ‘the everyday’ has long been a challenge for scholars in the social sciences. [1] Researchers from different disciplines and perspectives have explored how mundane things matter, how ‘big issues’ sit in the small. Feminists, for example, have insisted that ‘the personal is political’, to show how patriarchal relationships are founded in the mundane ways of …

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Six photos of my father at 91

I have chosen to tell a story based on six photographs I took of my father, Ivio Duranti (1918-2009) in the last year of his life. He was never diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease, but he definitely had some of the symptoms of dementia, including memory loss, disorientation, apathy, reduced speech production, and occasional hallucinations, even though he seemed able …

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Refraction of time

On a Thursday evening, five men gather around a dinner table. [1] Their host, a scientist from Surrey, England, has left them a note telling them to begin eating at 19:00 if he is not yet back himself. And so they do. They are in the midst of speculating about their hosts’ whereabouts when the door quietly opens. Their host

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Thinking with dementia. An introduction to the series

Fourteen stories 

This series is a collection of fourteen stories that are written to ‘think with dementia’. Over the past three years, six PhD students from the anthropology department at the University of Amsterdam have conducted ethnographic research on dementia care in the Netherlands. When the PhD projects came to a close, we organised a workshop to bring our work …