Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In the face of what the World Health Organization describes as “dramatic” population aging, an emergent eldercare industry in China promises that the otherwise bleak forecast of population aging will instead fuel China’s future. During my fieldwork in Nanjing, China, where I work alongside corporate and state-sponsored not-for-profit eldercare practitioners, I find that these practitioners constantly reflect upon questions concerning how old age should be lived, not just for themselves or their clients, but for the entire Chinese population. Beginning with the immediate “demographic realities” (Greenhalgh 1995, Aulino 2017) of population aging, they learn from Western eldercare techniques and organizational concepts, among other kinds of knowledges. They introduce tangible commodities, habitable lifestyles, and investable futures to the Chinese population, while positioning themselves as pioneers exploring the uncharted waters of professionalizing eldercare in China.
In this paper, I think through the notion of “pedagogies of aging” as a way of understanding the corporate engineering as well as the subjective experience of aging in China’s industrialization of eldercare. I use “pedagogy” to capture the instructions and aspirations that inform how one should grow old in today’s aging China. In doing so, I look at how the eldercare practitioners cultivate eldercare as a profession and aging as a market opportunity, and how this industrialization of eldercare produces new subjectivities of aging of both the elderly themselves and the eldercare practitioners.