Spring 2016 - SA 319 D100

Culture, Ethnicity and Aging (A) (4)

Class Number: 1976

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Tue, Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



An examination of the effects of culture and ethnicity on the aging process and the treatment of the aged. Although the orientation of the course is cross-cultural and comparative, particular emphasis will be placed on the social aspects of aging among various ethnic groups in contemporary Canada.


It is not a tragedy to age and grow old. And yet in many nations of the world old age is increasingly understood in catastrophic terms of dependency and loss. Why is this the case? What are the circumstances that sever life's foundational narrative from the entire human life-cycle? In the case of North America, Western Europe and globally the cultural values of youth, consumerism and individualism have played a major role in devaluing the status of the aged rendering them into a service population. But this is not the whole narrative. Anthropologists and scholars from other disciplines have brought to the fore nuanced perspectives arguing that ultimately age and the process of aging are determined as much by political and economic factors as by the value systems of societies and ethnic groups around the world. Scholars have highlighted the importance of critical analysis and interdisciplinary research that speak to the experiences and life circumstances of the aged. Older women and men from different cultural backgrounds present theoretical and methodological challenges to what has been a western/Orientalist study of the elderly in other societies.  

A politicized critique on the re-formulation of knowledge along with methodology will be covered in two interrelated parts. First, we will examine cross-cultural and gendered perspectives with special attention to topical concerns such as the political economy of aging, health, intergenerational relationships, sociality, transnational perspectives and the culture of institutionalized and palliative care. The second part of the course will be exploratory to accommodate case studies from different societies. We will identify examples for nuanced understanding of the process of aging at multiple "sites" in relation to the intersectional paradigm of class, gender, and citizenship.  We will focus on the reconstruction of meaning on what it is like to age within and across cultural, social and political boundaries. An informing theme of the course will be re-formulation of social knowledge on aging, palliative care and end-of-life conversations in relation to the larger processes of globalization and neoliberalism.  


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Acquire an understanding of the theoretical and methodological challenges surrounding age and aging 
  • Appreciate the knowledge base generated through particular case studies 
  • Acquire a critical understanding of the ways in which ethnicity, age and culture reveal societal issues 
  • Develop a keen awareness on research accountability and collaborative activism 
  • Design and carry out field research


  • 1. Review of Articles: 20%
  • 2. Group Presentation: 20%
  • 3. Semester Paper: 40%
  • 4. Class Participation: 20%


This course has a lecture/seminar format. Students are required to participate actively and in class and lead group discussions.  Consistent attendance is mandatory.

Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐ S10.04).  Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.    



Journal articles will be available through SFU on-line journals and websites to be accessed by students independently.  

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html