McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Alzheimer's, Anthropocene, Interdependence, Climate Change, Intersubjectivity, Memory
This dissertation uses autoethnography and critical psychological and philosophical theories to explore what people with Alzheimer’s disease teach us about being, forgetting, and dying in the Anthropocene. The author collected personal memory data from her lived experience of being with her mother while she had Alzheimer’s disease, and organized these memories into a series of vignettes. Each vignette was analyzed with critical psychological and philosophical theories to illuminate intersubjective themes of denial, things, ancestors, place, dying, and time. These themes connected the personal to the epochal and articulated the wisdom that our most forgetful elders can share in the Anthropocene, an era that reproduces itself around the fulcrum of forgetfulness about the interdependence of humans with the rest of the biosphere. A number of themes emerged which were elaborated in the form of wisdom being passed down from our most forgetful elders, including: denial is part of the journey, and needs to be worked through; listen for the animacy of things and other beings; you can call upon your ancestors for support and guidance; did you know that you can time travel?; agency in death is difficult to discern; be a steward of chronic grief; and care is political. It was found that our most forgetful elders remind us of our interdependence and show us ways of resisting capitalist and colonial ontological pressures, which in turn can help us navigate the climate chaos brought about by the Anthropocene.
Heller, C. (2021). Interdependence with Our Most Forgetful Elders: Alzheimer's in the Anthropocene (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/2012