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By Tulle Emmanuelle

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Extra resources for Ageing, The Body and Social Change: Agency and Indentity Among Ageing Athletes

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Accordingly the body was simply matter and the seat of our animal existence. It was not attributed any sentience or wilfulness, as this was found to reside in the mind, itself located in the brain (Crossley 2001b). Agency, mindful volition, consciousness and the capacity to rationalise and control bodily urges were therefore the realm of the mind or soul. Whilst separating the mind from the body, Descartes also conceptualised the latter as a (very sophisticated) machine. What differentiates human from animal bodies was the ability to think methodically, to doubt, to exercise free will, rather than operate purely within the logic of our mechanical constitution (Descartes 1966).

However, to the extent that disruptions do indeed arise, how can these be narrated and managed in ways which protect identity as well as social and cultural capital? Perhaps this imaginative leap can be made by apprehending ageing bodies as capital – physical, aesthetic, social, cultural, economic and symbolic – amenable not only to regulation but also to transformations, with the potential for marginalisation and trangression. This leads me to the second critical issue: how are we to judge that the deployment of capital via certain modalities of embodiment, including reflexive embodiment, reflects oppression or has potential for meaningful defiance or existing structures of domination?

How useful are these developments to make sense of marginalised bodies? Clearly some bodies are problematic. As we saw in Chapter 1, ageing bodies are on the whole experienced as deviant, inimical with social and cultural capital, and ontologically problematic. Theoretical interpretations of the management of old bodies point to the tendency to make them disappear, either by claiming they are secondary in the negotiation of identity (I don’t feel old) or by actively managing away the visible signs of ageing.

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