Critical Histories of Aging and Later Life

Critical Histories of Aging and Later Life
Issue number 139 (January 2021)
Abstract Deadline: Extended to June 21, 2019
Co-Edited by Amanda Ciafone, Devin McGeehan Muchmore, and David Serlin

In 2017, the United Nations estimated that the share of the world’s population over the age of sixty will have doubled between 2000 and 2050. Politicians, corporate executives, and popular commentators warn of a “crisis” produced by population aging, variously invoking concerns about slowed economic development in the global south, strained pensions and welfare systems, a shrinking labor force, and a care deficit.  Concomitantly, academic gerontologists have produced a paradigm of “active” and “successful” aging, conceiving of a physically “healthy,” socially enriched, and economically productive old age that is both a product of, and a solution to, human longevity. These narratives of a “New Old Age” rely upon an overly tidy and teleological account of aging’s history, decrying a simple vision of the bad old days of prejudice and dependency.

The Radical History Review seeks to foster critical perspectives on the histories and politics related to these contemporary understandings of aging and what has been called “later life.” We need radical histories that bring age and aging to the center of analysis and probe the deep past to elucidate antecedents, critiques, and alternative frameworks for making sense of both the “aging crisis” and possibility for thinking about aging and longevity in broader historical perspective. Old age has long bubbled beneath the surface in radical history scholarship: in articulations of kinship and political authority; within transformations of intergenerational relationships wrought by colonialism, industrialization and long histories of migration and settlement; within social welfare and capitalist, socialist, and post/colonial state building; within the ongoing struggles of caring labor and the biopolitical management of life itself; and within the brutal exclusions from old age and infirmity through global systems of inequality and deprivation.

We invite contributions from all time periods and geographies that investigate aging and later life and put them in historical context: as axes for multiscalar and intersectional identities or inequalities, as contested objects of knowledge and governance, as community formations, and sites of cultural and political struggle. We are especially interested in submissions that continue to push the boundaries of aging scholarship beyond Europe, East Asia, and North America, and/or explore histories before the nineteenth century. Such critical approaches would help challenge the narrowly-defined perspectives of the “longevity revolution” among contemporary policy makers and biomedical scientists.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to) histories of:

  • Pre-modern and pre-industrial notions of aging, productivity, community, and selfhood
  • Labor, consumption, and the lifecycle, wealth and poverty, and political economies of aging
  • Aging through the lens of disability history and critical disability studies
  • Biopolitics of populations, state formation, and welfare
  • Ageism as a racial and colonial project, slow death, and necropolitics
  • Death and dying, mourning, and widowhood
  • Aging and heteronormativity, gender hierarchy, and eroticism in later life
  • Elder activism and historical agency
  • Decolonizing aging studies
  • Care, kinship, and intergenerational relations
  • Aging in relation to globalization and migration
  • Archives, oral history, knowledge production, and the age politics of the university

The RHR publishes material in a variety of forms. Potential contributors are encouraged to look at recent issues for examples of both conventional and non-conventional forms of scholarship. We are especially interested in submissions that use images as well as texts and encourage materials with strong visual content. In addition to monographic articles based on archival research, we encourage submissions to our various departments, including:

  • Historians at Work (reflective essays by practitioners in academic and non-academic settings that engage with questions of professional practice)
  • Teaching Radical History (syllabi and commentary on teaching)
  • Public History (essays on historical commemoration and the politics of the past)
  • Interviews (proposals for interviews with scholars, activists, and others)
  • (Re)Views (review essays on history in all media–print, film, and digital)
  • Reflections (Short critical commentaries)
  • Forums (debates)

Procedures for submission of articles:

By June 1, 2019, please submit a 1-2 page abstract summarizing the article you wish as an attachment to with “Issue 139 Abstract Submission” in the subject line. Please send any images as low-resolution digital files embedded in a Word document along with the text. If chosen for publication, you will need to send high-resolution image files (jpg or TIFF files at a minimum of 300 dpi) and secure permission to reprint all images.

By July 15, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version of their article for peer review. The due date for completed articles will be November 1, 2019. Those articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in issue 139 of the Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in January 2021.

Abstract Deadline: Extended to June 21, 2019