Frail, Independent, involved? Care and the Category of the Elderly in Japan


  • Iza Kavedzija Sainsbury Institute for Japanese Arts and Cultures, Norwich



category of the elderly, care, Japan, personhood


This article examines how the category of the elderly in Japan is constructed through diverse forms of care, understood as moral practices intrinsic to peoples’ senses of self. It offers an analysis of a range of informal as well as institutional configurations of care in the Japanese urban context, highlighting the complexity as well as the overlapping nature of these diverse arrangements. It also explores ethnographically how older people experience these arrangements as they move through different sites of care, and how they negotiate the conflicting demands on their sense of self.  The various types of care at work in these settings all contribute to different understandings of older persons, and different constructions of the category of the elderly: as clients; as visitors or guests; as fragile ‘struggling persons’; as ‘grannies’ in familial relations; as (caring) neighbours. More than a handful of labels, these variable configurations of personal identity affect care practices and social relationships in direct and tangible ways.


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