Speaking of our recently opened exhibition Oldetopia: On Age and Ageing — Antje Kampf at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität in Mainz is one of the organisers of an interdisciplinary conference titled ‘(Re)constructing the Aging Body: Western Medical Cultures and Gender 1600–2000’, 26-28 September, 2008.
With an ever growing proportion of elderly people in many Western societies and modern medicine promising to prolong life and well-being, the aging body has become an increasingly common image in current society. ‘Anti-aging’ has become a popular movement for promoting activity, mobility and life-style choice instead of conventionally held stereotypes of decline and decrepitude. Current theoretical contributions argue that the aging body cannot completely be reduced to culture and stand up for a materialistic deconstructionist perspective considering the elderly’s experiences and the interaction of mind, body and society. It is the meaning attached to gendered aging bodies by medical cultures that needs further investigation. Uncovering the meanings attached to, the knowledge produced of, and the processes inherent to gendered aging bodies in the past and in contemporary Western societies requires an interdisciplinary approach.