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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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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 is the third and last chapter in the book that is based on the scoping review of scholarship on the intersection of ethnicity/ race and ageing/ old age. This chapter brings attention to social relations, social support/ help and caregiving (receiving), which is the third theme that has received the most attention when it comes to the scholarship in question. Just as it is the case with the two previous chapters, this chapter exposes the trends observed, and the ways in which ethnicity and race are made sense of in this literature. By bringing attention on the angles of investigation that this literature most often relies on (e.g. relying on others’ identification instead of own identification and the meanings attach to that), this chapter shows not only which topics have received attention, but also which ones remain unexplored.

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This chapter discusses the array of obstacles to the advancement of scholarship on ethnicity/ race and ageing/ old age that the book has exposed through the scoping review performed. The chapter argues that in the imagination of the scholarship of ethnicity and old age as it stands today, ethnic and racial older minorities come from a limited number of socio-cultural contexts and backgrounds. The groups that have received attention are being studied because they are assumed to be not only different from but also disadvantaged when compared to their ethnic majority counterparts, whose ‘privileged race’ need not be interrogated. The imagination in question does not presume that ethnic and racial minorities can experience privilege and neither does it acknowledge that ethnic and racial majorities can oppress. In light of this (as well as other aspects), this chapter argues that the imagination of the scholarship in focus is content with shedding light on the inequalities that ethnic and racial minorities experience but lacks a commitment to combating the injustices that these groups are believed to face. Against this backdrop, this chapter urges scholars to re-think what it is we want to accomplish when we bring attention to the nexus of ethnicity, race and old age.

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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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Author:

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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