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Lecture | Online webinar

Making meaningful lives | Iza Kavedžija

Tuesday 6 December 2022
Central European Time
Unfolding Finitudes: Current Ethnographies of Aging, Dying and End-of-Life Care

Participation is free and open for all. Please register via the button below. The meeting link will be sent to registered participants one week before the event.

Register for Making meaningful lives

Dr. Megha Amrith (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity) will be the discussant for this booktalk.

About the book

What makes for a meaningful life? In the Japanese context, the concept of ikigai provides a clue. Translated as "that which makes one's life worth living," ikigai has also come to mean that which gives a person happiness. In Japan, where the demographic cohort of elderly citizens is growing, and new modes of living and relationships are revising traditional multigenerational family structures, the elderly experience of ikigai is considered a public health concern. Without a relevant model for meaningful and joyful older age, the increasing older population of Japan must create new cultural forms that center the ikigai that comes from old age.

Dr. Iza Kavedžija's Making Meaningful Lives: Tales from an Aging Japan is a rich anthropological account of the lives and concerns of older Japanese women and men. Kavedžija offers an intimate narrative analysis of the existential concerns of her active, independent subjects, based on years of ethnographic fieldwork at two community centres in Osaka. The elderly residents of these communities, both alone and in groups, use humour, conversation, and storytelling to make sense of their lives and shifting ikigai.

They are as much providers as recipients of care, challenging common images of the elderly as frail and dependent, while illustrating a more complex argument: maintaining independence nevertheless requires cultivating multiple dependences on others. Making Meaningful Lives argues that an anthropology of the elderly is uniquely suited to examine the competing values of dependence and independence, sociality and isolation, intimacy and freedom, that people must balance throughout all of life's stages.

About Iza Kavedžija

Dr. Iza Kavedžija is an Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. She is specialising in Japan, with primary research interests in health and wellbeing, ageing and the life course, and art and creativity. She has conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork with two distinct groups of people in Japan's Kansai region: independently living older people (and those in their circles of care); and contemporary artists.


Cover of Making meaningful lives
Cover of Making meaningful lives
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