Doing research on the intersection of ethnicity and old age: Key insights from decolonial frameworks

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Abstract

Population aging and international migration are two of the most critical social trends shaping the world today. As a result, scholars across the globe have begun to investigate how to better incorporate ethnicity into gerontological research. The integration of insights from life-course theory, post-colonial, and feminist theories have resulted in valuable attempts to tackle issues related to ethnicity and old age. Inspired by these bodies of research, this paper explores how decolonial perspectives can strengthen social gerontological research at the intersection of ethnicity and old age. This theoretical paper advances four key insights drawn from decolonial perspectives that expose some current blind spots in gerontological research at the intersection of aging and ethnicity. Through a process of awareness and resistance decolonial perspectives reveal that: 1) colonial thinking is deeply embedded in research; 2) critical reflection about who is considered the “knower” in research is warranted; 3) alternative ways to generate, analyze, and publish knowledge exist; and 4) the places and systems of knowledge production are not neutral. To address these issues empirically, decolonial frameworks call us to actions that include decolonizing the conceptual underpinnings of the research enterprise, scholars themselves, research-in-action (through “epistemic disobedience”), and current knowledge systems and structures that reflect and reinforce colonialism. Potential applications of these insights are explored, but acknowledged as an essential first step on a nascent path. This paper concludes by arguing that decolonial perspectives offer a more genuine gaze by demanding nuanced reflections of contemporary realities aging persons embodying the intersection of aging and ethnicity, like racialized older migrants and ethnic minorities, while simultaneously revealing how historically-rooted power hierarchies that are often invisible constrain their aging experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100909
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Volume56
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is a part of a larger research project, “diverse elderly care.” This project was supported by ERDF Brussels ( European Regional Development Fund ), Belgium grant number: F11-06 . The funder was not involved in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.

Copyright:
Copyright 2022 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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