Queering Dementia by Margrit Shildrick

Date added: November 26, 2021
Areas of interest:

In dementia care, it is rarely questioned that the condition signals a breakdown in normative communicative competence that diminishes and finally renders the subjectivity of the sufferer beyond reach. More radical approaches may explore beyond verbal capacity to elicit a recognisable interaction through the use of music, touch, and movement, but could queering dementia offer a more flourish- ing scenario? In recent years there has been an upsurge in potential biotechno- logical interventions in the form of prostheses that claim to offer to those with dementia some tools for maintaining contact with their previous sense of self. Some of these are purely mechanical aids, such as robotic carers or quasi-animal companions, but I want to look too at the significance of some of the more organ- ic dimensions – such as the microbiome and microchimerism – that I also class
as prostheses in the sense that they augment an existing materiality. I understand dementia not as an exceptional state marked by a loss of independence, but in terms of the prosthetic nature of all embodiment. What makes that queer is that the entanglement of all bodies with an array of external and internal prosthetic elements is irreducible and unstable, and already constitutes the assemblage that is identified as a person.