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  • Author or Editor: Sandra Torres x
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Expanding our imagination
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Winner of the Richard Kalish Innovative Publication Award 2021.

Part of the Ageing in a Global Context series, this book proposes a new research agenda for scholarship that focuses on ethnicity, race and old age. It argues that in a time of increased international migration, population ageing and ethno-cultural diversity, scholarly imagination must be expanded as current research frameworks are becoming obsolete.

By bringing attention to the way that ethnicity and race have been addressed in research on ageing and old age, with a focus on health inequalities, health and social care, intergenerational relationships and caregiving, the book proposes how research can be developed in an ethnicity astute and diversity informed manner.

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This original collection explores how critical gerontology can make sense of old age inequalities to inform and improve social work research, policy and practice and empower older people.

With examples of practice-facing research, this book engages with key debates on age-related human rights and social justice issues. The critical and conceptual focus will expand the horizons of those who work with older people, addressing the current challenges, issues and opportunities that they face.

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This book’s starting point is the notion of theorising and the fact that, because scholarship at the intersection of ethnicity, race and old age has stagnated, we are in dire need of inquiries that focus on the context of discovery. The author argues that our scholarly imagination about this intersection needs to be developed now that the globalisation of international migration and transnationalism have increased the ethno-cultural diversity of our ageing populations. Through a scoping review of the last twenty years of research and theunderstandings of ethnicity and race that informs it, the author shows that scholarship on ageing and old age do not resonate well with the latest advancements in ethnicity and race scholarship. The book introduces gerontologists to social scientific discussions about ethnicity and race, introduces international migration scholars to the implications that population ageing has for the life-course, gives both of these scholarly fields insight into what characterizes scholarship at the intersection of ethnicity/ race and old age, andproposes a new research agenda. By bringing attention to the topics that have received the most attention (i.e. health inequalities, health and social care, intergenerational relationships and caregiving), and the manner in which ethnicity/ race have been made sense of so far, the author identifies the obstacles that scholarship on ethnicity, race and old age faces, and proposes how we can address them in an ethnicity-astute and diversity-informed manner.

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This book’s starting point is the notion of theorising and the fact that, because scholarship at the intersection of ethnicity, race and old age has stagnated, we are in dire need of inquiries that focus on the context of discovery. The author argues that our scholarly imagination about this intersection needs to be developed now that the globalisation of international migration and transnationalism have increased the ethno-cultural diversity of our ageing populations. Through a scoping review of the last twenty years of research and theunderstandings of ethnicity and race that informs it, the author shows that scholarship on ageing and old age do not resonate well with the latest advancements in ethnicity and race scholarship. The book introduces gerontologists to social scientific discussions about ethnicity and race, introduces international migration scholars to the implications that population ageing has for the life-course, gives both of these scholarly fields insight into what characterizes scholarship at the intersection of ethnicity/ race and old age, andproposes a new research agenda. By bringing attention to the topics that have received the most attention (i.e. health inequalities, health and social care, intergenerational relationships and caregiving), and the manner in which ethnicity/ race have been made sense of so far, the author identifies the obstacles that scholarship on ethnicity, race and old age faces, and proposes how we can address them in an ethnicity-astute and diversity-informed manner.

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The introduction chapter introduces the concept of theorising and argues that time has come for scholarship on the intersection between ethnicity/ race and ageing/ old age to engage on a theorising exercise of its own. In doing so, this chapter sets the stage for the idea engaging in a scoping review of the last twenty years of research on this intersection makes sense at this point in time since we need to make sense of which understandings of ethnicity and race inform this scholarship. By arguing for why it is that our imagination needs to be expanded in this regard, this chapter identifies the scholarly fields that work on this intersection (i.e. social gerontology, ethno-gerontology and ethnicity/ race scholarship), and the ways in which these fields have become interested on the intersection in question. Last but not least (and as it is customary), this introduction chapter ends with a description of, and rationale for, how the book is structured.

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This chapter aims to introduce ethnicity scholars to the societal challenge that is population aging, and social gerontologists to the challenges posed by the globalisation of international migration, and bytransnationalism. As such, this chapter aims to give the audiences that this book addresses a common ground from which future dialogues can be set in motion. It is, after all, these societal challenges that are at the core of the growing interest on the intersection of ethnicity/ race and ageing/ old age. This chapter argues also that one of the reasons why we should engage in the imaginative phase of discovery that theorising entails is that greater diversity can now be found in the older segments of our population and the scholarship in focus in this book needs to become more ethnicity/ race-astute.

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This chapter presents the ways in which understandings of ethnicity and race have evolved, and what characterises the different perspectives on these social positions that are available (i.e. essentialism/ primordialism, structuralism/ circumstantialism and constructionism). In doing so, this chapter maps out what these different perspectives mean to how we make sense of the impact that ethnicity and race have in our lives, and explains why some scholars refer to ethnicity and race as background variables, while others regard them as social positions, locations or identification grounds. In doing so this chapter problematizes what previous research on the intersection of ethnicity/ race and ageing/ old age has shown as far as the understandings of ethnicity and race that inform this scholarship.

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This chapter aims specifically to describe what characterises the portion of the scholarship on the intersection of ethnicity/ race and ageing/ old age that focuses on health inequalities. This chapter brings attention to the fact that this literature regards ethnicity and race as crude proxies and fails therefore to acknowledge the complexity embedded in these social positions. The chapter brings attention to the main trends observed when reviewing the literature (i.e. that most studies come from North America and focus on a small number of ethnic minorities, most fail to address how ethnicity and race is made sense of in the studies, most are informed by the essentialist and/ or structuralist perspectives, and that most studies rely on studies that have not been designed to specifically explore the nexus in question). In doing so, this chapter shows what the perspectives that inform this literature mean not only for the themes that have received attention (i.e. general health/ physical functioning, disability and mobility/ disease-specific/ mental health/ cognitive functioning), but also for the ones that remain unexplored (such as, for example, the study of how perceived racism impacts the health of older ethnic minorities).

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This chapter focuses on the literature on ethnicity/ race and ageing/ old age that brings attention to issues related to health and social care. Just as it was the case in the previous chapter, this chapter exposes the main trends observed as far as what characterises the literature in focus. Besides being research on the North American context and focusing on very few ethnic minorities, this chapter discusses the fact that this literature takes for granted that ethnicity and race matter for older people’s health and social care service utilisation but does not, in fact, answers why this is the case. In addition, this chapter problematizes the fact that by focusing almost exclusively on older ethnic minorities’ experiences, the literature fails to bring attention to the views of those whose practices are important to the issues being discussed (i.e. health and social care staff). Noted is also that few of the studies reviewed take into account the attitudinal and/or behavioural patterns that are implicitly conveyed to pose a challenge to older ethnic minorities’ access and usage of health and social care services. Thus, by bringing attention to the areas that have received attention (i.e. access and usage/ attitudes, preferences and experiences/ the suitability of different programs, interventions and services and self-care practices), this chapter identifies the array of areas that remain unexplored.

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This chapter addresses the state of theoretical affairs of research concerned with one of gerontology's most debated constructs; that is, successful ageing. Hereby, it is argued that much could be learned if we were to treat international migrants as sources of theoretically fruitful information about the way in which understandings of successful ageing are shaped and reformulated through the lifecourse. This argument, however, is not a new one since I have been trying to raise social gerontology's awareness of the unexplored potential embedded in studying international migrant populations ever since it dawned to me that theory development in social gerontology was often a native (not to mention western-only) endeavour. The sections that follow will be, to a certain extent, a reiteration of what has been briefly argued elsewhere (Torres, 1998, 2001a, 2003c), namely that the migrant experience and the destabilisation of lifecourse continuity inherent to it offer interesting angles for theory building in social gerontology.

The argument that will be put forth is not exclusively theoretical, however. Empirical illustrations on the challenges that the process of migration poses to the way in which understandings of successful ageing are shaped will be used to show that the international migrant experience offers a relatively unexplored yet fruitful point of departure for social gerontological research. However, before these areas can be explored it seems necessary to highlight what makes the migrant experience unique and how I came to regard elders with such backgrounds as potential sources of information about how notions of successful ageing are constructed through the lifecourse.

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