Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Stigma is part of the spectrum of othering that that has a long history in the ‘western tradition’, including stigmas attached to body size/shape, disability, skin colour, and feared diseases. It can be impossible to separate stigma and discrimination. However, the stigma and fear that is currently evident in relation to the prevalence of dementia is posing a formidable challenge to stigma as tool of exclusion, and thus a new lens through which to examine stigma’s inherent contradictions. Dementia as social phenomenon interacts with other stigmata: ageism, sexism, economic inequalities, and the politics of medicalising. It challenges liberal notions of the person, cognitive ability and vulnerability. But those with forms of dementia can no longer be treated as an other, cast aside, because there are too many people being diagnosed: the likelihood of ‘you and me’ getting it is high. People with dementia cannot be so easily cast off, ghettoised, feared. There are implications ‘for me’ in continuing current patterns of social discrimination. Dementia turns the lens back onto the moral and social orders within which the stigma of otherness is produced. What can we learn about stigma and notions of humanness from this contradiction; about the ways in which stigmas are produced, how they manifest and why, and what efforts come into place to reframe them when the stigmatiser risks becoming the stigmatised?