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September 2019

Med Anthropol Q. 1995 Sep; 9(3): 314-34.

Toward an anthropology of senility: anger, weakness, and Alzheimer's in Banaras, India.

Cohen L.

Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

Dementia has seldom been subject to cross-cultural and cross-class analyses that localize the obviousness and meaningfulness of its pathology. Fieldwork with old persons and their families in four neighborhoods of Banaras, India, stratified by class, is presented to suggest the need for an anthropology of senility. The centrality of "hot brain"--of anger rather than memory as a fundamental index of senile difference--is explored through its differential construction across class and gender in these neighborhoods. The hearing of the angry voice is examined in relation to local knowledge about weakness, madness, and "sixtyishness" and to practices that maintain intergenerational difference through the construction of what is here termed a familial body.

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