By: Sandra Torres (Uppsala University, Sweden)

The title of this blog is precisely what I asked myself when I was first asked to write a book on ethnicity by one of the guest editors of the Policy Press book series ‘Aging in a Global Context’. I knew there were a couple of books in the market about ethnicity for social gerontologists when he first approached me, but I had not noted that most of them are edited collections that neither offer theory-informed introductions to this topic, nor give comprehensive insight into the research that has been conducted so far, and how that research has approached the identification grounds that are ethnicity and race. It was with these realizations in mind that I set out to write the book that was published in April: Ethnicity and Old Age: Expanding our Imagination.

Deciding how to tackle the actual process of writing the book was the next thing I needed to do once I understood the kind of contribution I wanted to make. I knew I did not want to write a book on the basis of my own impressions on the field even if I could do just that after having worked on projects about the intersection in question since the mid 90’s. Instead I wanted this book project to expand my own imagination, which is why I decided to engage on a theorizing exercise and approached the intersection in question from the vantage point that wanting to discover something new offers. Once I had decided that wanting to expand my own as well as my peers’ imagination about the intersection of ethnicity/ race and aging/ old age was what I wanted the book to be about, I started to draft the first three chapters. These chapters – which comprise Part I of the book – are about the societal trends that have propelled the aging of ethno-cultural minorities to the forefront of social scientific research agenda, and the theoretical frameworks that have been used to make sense of ethnicity and race. Once I had done that, I devised a coding scheme to analyze the 330+ peer-reviewed articles in English that have been published over the past two decades about the intersection in question. Thus, Part II of the book present the research topics that have preoccupied the imagination of scholars working on this intersection (i.e. health inequalities, health and social care, social relations and caregiving), and the ways in which the identification grounds in question have been addressed when studying these topics. These chapters expose the obstacles that the scholarship in question faces as far as the expansion of its imagination is concerned. These include, among others, lack of a research agenda, use of narrow samples, perspectives and reference categories, structure and context-obliviousness and lack of analytical clarity. The book discusses therefore why it is that the scholarship in question continues to regard ethnicity and race in a primordialist way even if ethnicity and migration scholars’ own sense-making of these identification grounds have long abandoned this perspective.

Because I deemed both social gerontologists, and ethnicity and migration scholars to be potential audiences for this book, I have structured it in such a way that allows experienced scholars in both of these field to zero in on the sections within each chapter that could potentially inform their own work, while also giving those who want to learn more about how ethnicity and race can be understood, and characterizes the research that is available so far, a book that introduces them to scholarship on the intersection in question. It is my sincerest hope that the book offers new ways of thinking about ethnicity and race in relation to aging and old age; ways which I hope can unleash our imagination about this topic. In highly globalized times such as ours, and when increased ethno-cultural diversity characterizes so many societies, the study of ethnicity, race and old age cannot be relegated to the periphery of the imagination of social gerontology. My book hopes, in short, to put the intersection of ethnicity, race and old age on the agenda of mainstream social gerontology.

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