Among the many studies of aging and the aged, there is comparatively little material in which the aged speak for themselves. In this compelling study, Sharon Kaufman encourages just such expression, recording and presenting the voices of a number of old Americans. Her informants tell their life stories and relate their most personal feelings about becoming old. Each story is unique, and yet, presented together, they inevitable weave a clear pattern, one that clashes sharply with much current gerontological thought. With this book, Sharon Kaufman allows us to understand the experience of the aging by listening to the aged themselves.
Kaufman, while maintaining objectivity, is able to draw an intimate portrait of her subjects. We come to know these people as individuals and we become involved with their lives. Through their words, we find that the aging process is not merely a period of sensory, functional, economic, and social decline. Old people continue to participate in society, and—more important—continue to interpret their participation in the social world. Through themes constructed from these stories, we can see how the old not only cope with losses, but how they create new meaning as they reformulate and build viable selves. Creating identity, Kaufman stresses, is a lifelong process.
Sharon Kaufman's book will be of interest and value not only to students of gerontology and life span development, and to professionals in the field of aging, but to everyone who is concerned with the aging process itself. As Sharon Kaufman says, "If we can find the sources of meaning held by the elderly and see how individuals put it all together, we will go a long way toward appreciating the complexity of human aging and the ultimate reality of coming to terms with one's whole life."
American Empire and the Politics of Meaning is an examination of how these efforts to provide the elite of Puerto Rico and the Philippines a practical education in self-government played out on the ground in the early years of American colonial rule, from 1898 until 1912. It is the first systematic comparative analysis of these early exercises in American imperial power. The sociologist Julian Go unravels how American authorities used “culture” as both a tool and a target of rule, and how the Puerto Rican and Philippine elite received, creatively engaged, and sometimes silently subverted the Americans’ ostensibly benign intentions. Rather than finding that the attempt to transplant American-style democracy led to incommensurable “culture clashes,” Go assesses complex processes of cultural accommodation and transformation. By combining rich historical detail with broader theories of meaning, culture, and colonialism, he provides an innovative study of the hidden intersections of political power and cultural meaning-making in America’s earliest overseas empire.
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