Age-Inscriptions and Social Change


  • Cati Coe Rutgers University
  • Erdmute Alber Bayreuth University



aging, life course, migration, age-inscription, institutionalization, social change


This special issue introduces the concept of age-inscription. It accounts for the ways that transitions, expectations and markers around age and life-course stages are modified in interplay with social change. This new concept is necessary, we argue, because age-inscriptions correspond to more indeterminate and transitional levels of changes in aging trajectories and life stages than the concept of norms. Inscriptions lie between rules, laws, and norms on the one hand, and individual feelings, emotions, and actions on the other. They are at least slightly shared between individuals, and, thus, somewhat more standardized than individual behavior, but not as standardized and shared as norms. This introduction lays out the reasons why ageinscriptions happen, as well as the primary ways by which they are formed and generated. We conclude by arguing that contemporary age-inscriptions are fashioned in relation to a longer life course encountered by a new generation, an increasing temporalization and institutionalization of the life course, and high levels of mobility and migration. 

Author Biographies

Cati Coe, Rutgers University

Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University

Erdmute Alber, Bayreuth University

Chair of Social Anthropology, Bayreuth University


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