Call for paper – Ageing: Between Science and Politics


Ageing is often limited to a biological process only.

Conference Objectives

Since the mid-twentieth century, the ageing population has gradually become a major challenge in the industrialised countries for both politics and research. For long, interest in these topics has been sustained by the evolution of the age pyramid, ‘alarmist demography’ (Katz, 1992) along with the fear of a ‘decline’ in population.

On the one hand, ageing has become a specialisation in many disciplines: medicine, sociology, psychology, to name but three. New ‘regions of knowledge’ (Bernstein, 2007) have been emerging, but unevenly so over time and across space: the sociology of ageing in France, cultural gerontology on the American continent, gerontology and geriatrics all over the world (Achenbaum, 1995; Moulaert, 2012; Leborgne-Uguen, Pennec, 2012). How has ageing become a delineated object and what are the limits that differentiate it from other fields of knowledge? Which features create the contexts for its progressive specialisation? Which epistemological issues do these areas of knowledge face? What effects do they or can they have on their objects?

On the other hand, welfare states also target specific parts of the population for both social and health policies, such as elderly people, people with loss of autonomy, ‘seniors’ or older workers. In Europe, most twentieth-century laws in this field are economic in nature. With the advent of industrial society and the concomitant ‘institutionalisation of the life course’ (Kohli, 1986; Glootz 2009), the object of this legislation has been the livelihood/relief of those who are too old to ensure their survival through work. The implementation of pensions, the mandatory assistance for the elderly poor, or the financial compensations for their ‘dependency’, all these ‘managing’ laws retain a biological approach to ageing. They are based on the idea of a natural decline that must be compensated while representing a threat to national economics. But does this apparent consensus not eclipse local differences?

In addition, we particularly want to question the relationship between policies and knowledge that legitimises and underpins these laws. Which expertise is required? Who holds it? Which hierarchies exist between fields of knowledge in political discourses and actions? Which links are established between production of specific knowledge and the production of ageing policies? How do science and politics nourish each other? To what degree does this division follow a specialisation justified by its object on the one hand, and a division of intellectual and political labour on the other?

The ‘biomedicalisation’ (Foucault, 1976) of elderly persons has already been partially described and studied. But what about the role of social sciences in the circumscription of ageing issues? Research in the social sciences has shown little interest in their own effects on the object of ageing. And yet, the growing attention to professional practices, the professionalisation and lifelong-learning of professional and informal caregivers, etc. seems to mobilise and re-contextualise knowledge from the humanities and social sciences. What effects has the use of such knowledge on the ‘field’? In return, how does this use impact on the disciplines and the production of knowledge?

We invite scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and law to develop local as well as international and comparative approaches to issues related to ageing on one of the following three themes.

Theme 1 – Construction Processes

The first theme aims to trace genealogies of knowledge and politics on ageing. At what times did such concepts emerge, mutate, and eventually come into competition? Which controversies and tensions did these processes produce? Which ‘knowledge’ deserves to be developed, investigated, and/or funded? Who has been taking part in such processes, and what role have these people been playing? This theme particularly invites papers with a historical or socio-historical perspective on ageing.

Theme 2 – The Role of social sciences

This theme invites papers on ‘reflexive’ research in the social sciences at large (or ‘critical’ research in the sense of ‘critical gerontology’ as proposed by Moody, 1993). Which effects did/can/will the production of such knowledge have on its object? How public policy and science frame age? How do they influence each other ? Are their boundaries of old age the same? How do they (re)define these boundaries?

Theme 3 – Specialisation, formation, professionalisation

The third theme looks at jobs and professionals in the public and private administration of ageing: the specialisation of career paths, the extension to existing fields such as social work or nursing, the development of skills transferred to the specificity of the elderly, the reflection on interdisciplinary approaches (case manager, etc.), etc. What contemporary issues run through many practices produced by public policies related to ageing? What areas and what professional practices emerge when ageing is seen as a ‘social problem’ or, conversely, when it is thought of as ‘opportunity’ in notions such as ‘active ageing’ or ‘ageing well’? Which solutions are presented for which issues? What is the expertise of professionals based on? What problems do they face? What questions do they ask themselves? If the culture of evaluation of professional practice now seems transversal, what are its possible specificities in this field?

Conference Organisation

The conference will take place over 12-13 March 2015 in Luxembourg.

How to submit a proposal for a paper?

Proposals for papers can be submitted in French, English, or German. They are limited to 1000 words, but should clearly indicate the methods and theoretical frameworks on which the paper is based.

Papers will be selected by the scientific board of the conference. The chosen speakers will be asked to send a text of maximum 30.000 characters (spaces included) to the conference coordinator. This text will serve as a base to the chairs for the ensuing discussions.

A selection of the best papers will be published.

Deadline for the submission of proposals: 31 July 2014
Reply from the scientific board to the speakers: 15 September 2014

Scientific Board

Prof. Dieter Ferring, Head of the Research Unit INSIDE, University of Luxembourg.
Dr Martine Hoffmann, Head of Research at RBS-Center fir Altersfroen, Luxembourg. Ms Lucie Lechevalier-Hurard, PhD student, IRIS-Université Paris XIII, France.
Dr Iris Loffeier, Post-doctoral researcher, IPSE, University of Luxembourg.
Prof. Benoît Majerus, Assistant Professor, Research Unit IPSE, University of Luxembourg.
Dr Thibauld Moulaert, researcher at REIACTIS (France) and associate researcher at the Université Catholique de Louvain and the Université de Liège, Belgium.
Dr Isabelle Tournier, Post-doctoral researcher, INSIDE, University of Luxembourg.

Dr Iris Loffeier, post-doctoral researcher, IPSE, University of Luxembourg.
Ms Sophie Richelle, PhD candidate, IPSE, University of Luxembourg.
Ms Johanna Tietje, PhD candidate, IPSE, University of Luxembourg.
Ms Manon Pinatel, PhD candidate, IPSE, University of Luxembourg.


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