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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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Thinking with spirits

During my first visit to Ghana in 1998, I was involved in a research project that looked at possible co-operations between healers and psychiatric clinics. I stayed in the healing camp of Prophet Abbam II, who was known in the area to heal patients with mental health problems. My presence at his healing church attracted many visitors, who kindly brought …

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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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The fool with the watering can, or asynchronous time travelling

One of the most bewildering and fascinating things about spending time with people with dementia is that they can rapidly travel through time. This was most clear with Mrs B., a daydreaming woman of 86. Her skin was deeply wrinkled and in the nursing home she kept pretty much to herself. One day, I had a long, stretched out conversation …

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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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Re-enacting memories

One way to ‘think with dementia’ is to phenomenologically shift from ‘memory’ to ‘remembering’ and to mine ‘remembering’ for its qualities and potentialities as socio-culturally limned experience. Whereas ‘memory’ invokes static mappings of representation and world, ‘remembering’ is temporally emergent. Whereas ‘memory’ invokes individual capacities, ‘remembering’ is a situated, genre-ed activity that invites co-participation. ‘Remembering’ exudes qualities of performance, not …