Dementia and the gender trouble?: Theorising dementia, gendered subjectivity and embodiment

Date added: October 30, 2019
Areas of interest:
Authors: Linn Sandberg

Journal of Aging Studies, 45 (2018) 25-31.

Despite person-centred approaches increasingly focusing on looking at the person in dementia instead of the pathology, the role of gender in dementia has been little explored. This article discusses how pervasive discourses on a loss of self and dementia as abject are interwoven with a de-gendering of persons with dementia. The cultural anxiety that dementia evokes in terms of loss of bodily and cognitive control could also be linked to a failure to normatively and intelligibly express gender when living with dementia. As a way to sustain personhood for people with dementia and challenge discourses on people with dementia as ‘non-people’, person-centred approaches have emphasised the collaborative work of carers, relatives and persons with dementia. Often implicitly, this also involves a ‘re-gendering’ of persons with dementia where gendered biographies and pasts are upheld and gendered embodied selfhood is maintained through, for example, dress, hair and otheaspects of appearance. This re-gendering could be of great significance for people with dementia to become intelligible as persons. Still, dementia studies must further consider non-normative expressions of gender and involve feminist theorising on gender as a power asymmetry since some embodiments and selves are more likely to be sustained in dementia than others.