The health crisis brought about by COVID-19 has particularly affected the over-70s, whose mortality rate has subsequently soared. In many nursing homes, private residencies and hospitals people have experienced drastic situations caused by care difficulties and a lack of resources during the pandemic, all of which has laid bare this collective’s conditions of neglect and vulnerability, underscoring how the political rhetoric of “disposable lives” stops at old age. At the same time, the interruption or limitation of wakes and funeral ceremonies — denying families support, valediction and solace — places society before a vastly unresolved and traumatic bereavement.
Before such circumstances, this virtual encounter seeks to reflect on the meaning of old age and the different forms of ageing and dying in our societies. While in many non-Western cultures elderly people hold an important place, through their wisdom and years of experience, the alienation of modern life in our reality often considers the elderly as a burden, relegating them to a place of invisibility and neglect, whereby ageing becomes a process which generates different forms of violence.
We Are All Old. We Are All Mortal is an invitation to consider how we want to age, an opportunity to analyse different alternatives and underline the right to live and die with dignity. The activity is moderated by Elisa Fuenzalida, researcher and carer during the pandemic, and features the participation of Ana Gallardo, an Argentinian artist whose work imagines other collective modes of ageing; Javier Rosa, a physiotherapist in care homes in the Community of Madrid and a researcher; and Rita Segato, an anthropologist and feminist from Argentina.
Elisa Fuenzalida is a researcher, writer and activist with an MA in Advanced Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the Complutense University of Madrid. Her career as a researcher focuses on developing critical methodologies applied to gender, race and territory, and she collaborates in the Aníbal Quijano Chair, curated by Rita Segato, in the Museo Reina Sofía. She has also worked as a carer for children and the elderly in Spain during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Ana Gallardo is an artist from Argentina who for a number of years now has centred her work on the possible ways of establishing relationships of friendship, solidarity and community between people in their twilight years, with the aim of countering neglect as a form of violence in old age. Her works most notably include Un lugar para vivir cuando seamos viejos (2010), Acciones primarias (2014) and, more recently, Escuela de envejecer (2016 – present).
Javier Rosa is a physiotherapist who has spent many years working in care homes in the Community of Madrid. His research focuses on subjectivities of different bodies, the breakdown of normality discourses from these bodies, and the possible transformation of subjects during processes of illness — the passage from victim to empowered subject. He is also part of the research groups Somateca 2.0 and Las Raras.
Rita Segato is a professor of Anthropology and Bioethics in the UNESCO Chair at the University of Brasilia (Brazil). She was an expert witness on the trials of the Sepur Zarco case in Guatemala, where sexual violence was first tried and prosecuted, in the form of domestic and sexual slavery, as a war strategy used by the State. Her main fields of interest include new forms of violence against women and the contemporary consequences of the coloniality of power. Her most important works include: La Nación y sus Otros: raza, etnicidad y diversidad religiosa en tiempos de políticas de la identidad (Prometeo Libros, 2007), Las estructuras elementales de la violencia. Ensayos sobre género entre antropología, el psicoanálisis y los derechos humanos (Prometeo Libros, 2013) and La crítica de la colonialidad en ocho ensayos y una antropología por demanda (Prometeo Libros, 2015).