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Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment

Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment

By Chris Gilleard & Paul Higgs

Key Issues in Modern Sociology

This book investigates the emergence of a ‘new ageing’ and its realisation through the body. The work explores new forms of embodiment concerned with identity and care of the self, which have seen the body become a site for ageing differently – for ageing without becoming old. 

Paperback, 228 Pages


January 2014

£25.00, $40.00

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  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents

About This Book

‘Ageing, Corporeality and Embodiment’ argues that both ageing as a unitary social process and agedness as a distinct social location have become fragmented. The book concentrates  on the emergence of a ‘new ageing’ mediated in part through the processes of ‘embodiment’.

The first section provides the main theoretical context for the book, with the first chapter outlining the new ‘sociology of the body’ and the second outlining the emergence of new ageing and its ‘re-orientation’ toward the body. The second section explores the relationship between new ageing and key aspects of embodied identity, namely gender, race, disability and sexuality. In each of these sections, the authors provide a brief historical perspective on the emergence of these embodied identities as social movements during the cultural ferment of the 1960s, and explore their subsequent confrontation, or avoidance of confrontation with, the issue of ageing.

The third section covers embodied practices, from sexual practice and its re-orientation toward age and ageing, to the embodied practices of ‘appearance management’, particularly those associated with cosmetics, clothing and fashion. Finally, the book considers ‘new enhancement technologies’ of the body, such as plastic surgery, with relation to ideas of ‘rejuvenation’. By focusing upon those embodied practices that are oriented toward age and ageing, and their place in expressing, maintaining or recreating other ‘pre-performed’ identities, the work allows a more embodied understanding of ageing and its diverse engagements within society to be realised.


‘Chris Gilleard and Paul Higgs are two of our foremost theorists of age. Their work has helped transform how we understand later life. In this fascinating and insightful book, they address the key issue in ageing: embodiment, its meaning and significance. The text is set to become a classic.’ —Julia Twigg, Professor of Social Policy and Sociology, University of Kent

‘The lively writing, exciting critical theories and wide-ranging explorations into fashion, fitness and consumerism in this work by Gilleard and Higgs transforms the cultural field of the “new ageing” into a new form of sociological inquiry. Finally we have a book that exposes how our deep ambivalence about growing older shapes generation, identity, lifestyle, corporeality and embodiment.’ —Stephen Katz, Professor of Sociology, Trent University

‘Gilleard and Higgs break from the prevailing literature on the physicality of ageing and engage the reader in novel perspectives on the social aspects of the ageing body. This is an extraordinarily carefully written – and at times eloquent – narrative that is refreshingly original in its contribution.’ —Scott A. Bass, Provost and Professor of Public Administration and Policy, American University

‘Gilleard and Higgs canvass a breathtaking range of work on embodiment and ageing, reviewing diverse theoretical trajectories and research contexts, and suggesting compelling questions that await investigation. This insightful book is agenda-setting, and will be an indispensable resource for both cultural gerontology and the sociology of the body.’ —Barbara L. Marshall, Professor of Sociology, Trent University

‘Gilleard and Higgs bring their own brand of scholarship and critical reflexions to bear on Third Age corporeality and embodiment. This book confirms that sociology should take old age and ageing seriously, not treat it simply as the back end of the sociology of the body.’ —Emmanuelle Tulle, Reader in Sociology, Glasgow Caledonian University

‘The stubborn, insistent fact of bodily ageing requires that we bring age into the sociology of the body and, likewise, bring the body into ageing studies. Arguing for this mutual enrichment, Gilleard and Higgs review historical and theoretical developments on both sides and analyse key practices of the “new ageing”’. —David J. Ekerdt, Professor of Sociology and Director, Gerontology Center, University of Kansas

Author Information

Chris Gilleard is a visiting research fellow at University College London.

Paul Higgs is professor of the sociology of ageing at University College London. 


Key Issues in Modern Sociology

Table of Contents

Introduction; Chapter 1: Identity, Embodiment and the Somatic Turn in the Social Sciences; Chapter 2: Corporeality, Embodiment and the ‘New Ageing’; Chapter 3: Gender, Ageing and Embodiment; Chapter 4: Age and the Racialised Body; Chapter 5: Disability, Ageing and Identity; Chapter 6: Sexuality, Ageing and Identity; Chapter 7: Sex and Ageing; Chapter 8: Cosmetics, Clothing and Fashionable Ageing; Chapter 9: Fitness, Exercise and the Ageing Body; Chapter 10: Ageing and Aspirational Medicine; Conclusions: Ageing, Forever Embodied; References; Index 

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