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Title: Performance ritual and the construction of selfhood and identity among older people in West Fife
Author: Johnson, J. A.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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This study examines the experience of old age among older people within different settings in West Fife. It is an anthropological and phenomenological study of ritual performances of identity, and means by which older people accomplish the development of a collective identity, their selfhood, their interpretation of the world and their values. In negotiating the incongruent realities of 'change' and 'continuity' the elderly are constrained both by structural inequalities and a socially-ascribed liminality. Where these predominate, performances of identity reveal as much about social division and exclusion as they do about social integration and inclusion, with the institutionalised self being remade in a social image of elderhood, fostering invisibility and vulnerability. Other environments serve to mask the institutional process, through metaphoric strategies and the rehearsal of social exchange and interdependency, fostering the key ideas of 'belonging' and 'solidarity' - the cardinal attributes of imagined communities of the past. The elderly draw from the past, interpreting and recreating it as a resource for being in the present. In no setting, however, is it clear that the use of collective forms to assert identity signals uniformities of identity. The settings are arenas for contrasting differences, revealing that participants aspire towards their individuality and a remaking of an individual self. This emerges, at least in part, as a consequence of the ambiguous role of ritual performance in the establishment of meanings of selfhood and society. The study offers fresh insight into the conditions of collective life among the old. Through ritual older people construct their own terms of membership and, at the same time, maintain their self-integrity, using the same performance to assert both selfhood and social identity. In particular the study focuses on the importance of the recognition of inner identity (the interplay between individual and collective identity) and the place of ritual performance in dealing with uncertain and anxious periods of life, and the contribution towards this of individual and collective biography within a shared social, cultural and historical context.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available