No substitute for human touch? Towards a critically posthumanist approach to dementia care

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Abstract

This paper develops a sociological critique of the pre-eminence of humanism in dementia care policy and practice. Throughout the centuries, humanism has served as something of a double-edged sword in relation to the care and treatment of people living with progressive neurocognitive conditions. On the one hand, humanism has provided an intellectual vehicle for recognizing people with dementia as sentient beings with inalienable human rights. On the other hand, humanist approaches have relied upon and re-enforced normative understandings of what it means to be human; understandings that serve to position people with dementia as deficient. Two posthumanist approaches to dementia care policy and practice are explored in this paper: transhumanism and critical posthumanism. The former seeks, primarily, to use advances in 21st century technologies to eradicate dementia. The latter seeks to de-centre anthropomorphic interpretations of what it means to be a person (with dementia), so as to create space for more diverse human-nonhuman relationships to emerge. The paper concludes with some tentative suggestions as to what a critically posthumanist approach to dementia care policy and practice might look like, as we move closer towards the middle of the 21st century.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalAgeing & Society
Early online date19 May 2016
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 May 2016

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