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Area Studies Showcase Lecture Series: Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Aging Nationally in Contemporary Poland: Memory, Kinship, and Personhood

Jessica C. Robbins (PhD Anthropology '13), assistant professor of anthropology, Wayne State University
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
2:00-3:00 PM
Off Campus Location
Active aging programs that encourage older adults to practice health-promoting behaviors are proliferating worldwide. In Poland, the meanings and ideals of these programs have become caught up in the sociocultural and political-economic changes that have occurred during the lifetimes of the oldest generations—most visibly, the transition from socialism to capitalism. Yet practices of active aging resonate with older forms of activity in late life in ways that exceed these narratives of progress. Moreover, some older Poles come to live valued, meaningful lives in old age despite threats to respect and dignity posed by illness and debility. Drawing on almost two years of ethnographic research with older Poles in a range of contexts, this talk shows that everyday practices of remembering and relatedness shape how older Poles come to be seen by themselves and by others as living worthy, valued lives. This talk shows how memories and understandings of the Polish nation intersect with ideals and experiences of late life to produce forms of life that are not reducible to binary categories of health or illness, independence or dependence, or socialism or capitalism.

Jessica Robbins is an assistant professor at the Institute of Gerontology and Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan, and her B.A. in anthropology and music from Williams College. Her research explores aging, memory, kinship, and personhood in historical political-economic perspective, in both Poland and Michigan. Her research has been published in journals such as Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Ageing & Society, Journal of Aging Studies, and East European Politics, Societies & Cultures. Her first book, Aging Nationally in Contemporary Poland: Memory, Kinship, and Personhood, is forthcoming later this year with Rutgers University Press. She has received funding from organizations such as the NSF, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, IREX, and the Wilson Center.

This lecture is the CREES contribution to the "Area Studies Showcase Lecture Series: Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia," of which CREES is a proud partner. See the full series lineup here:

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If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you before or during the event please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is preferred as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Anthropology, European, International, Poland
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, International Institute, Copernicus Center for Polish Studies, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia