Storying Life Courses for Intersectional Inclusion: Ethnicity and Wellbeing Across Time and Place

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Sociological Studies


The current prominence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, along with evidence of the unequal morbidity, mortality and socio-economic impacts of Covid-19, have highlighted the entrenched and systemic ethnic and racialised inequalities in UK society. These have a detrimental impact on older members of the Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER)* population, as well as on its younger members. Indeed, the two are inseparable, as racialised experiences of inequality and exclusion encountered in earlier years, accumulate over the life course, resulting in significant ethnic inequalities in later life across a range of social outcomes.

Research and policy agendas designed to foster more inclusive ageing scenarios for the population at large have gained traction in recent years, albeit against a backdrop of prevailing societal ageism as a system of inequality and a major form of exclusion. Such agendas have increasingly acknowledged the importance of a life course perspective for inclusive ageing, understanding later-life positionings as cumulative of advantage and disadvantage over time. Older people's life courses, however, have been treated in quite homogenised ways. This means that in prevailing conceptualisations of inclusive ageing, vital intersections between ageing and ethnicity, and between ageism and racism, have been missed.

This timely and bold project will plug that fundamental knowledge gap. Its key aim is to critically interrogate accepted interpretations of social inclusion/exclusion in order to reconceptualise them from the perspective of the BAMER population's life courses, and to employ this reconceptualisation as the basis for a new understanding of inclusive ageing and the steps needed to achieve it. As with the older population, the BAMER population is diverse in itself, with dynamic and multidimensional identities and experiences mediated by for example, gender, socio-economic position, migration background, sexuality, religion and disability. In this project, therefore, we take an 'intersectional life course' approach, unpacking experiences within the BAMER population. We also focus on the important role that place plays in shaping intersectional life course experiences. This includes the material resources available in local places, such as housing and social care, as well as the sense of attachment, belonging and identity places engender or not. For those with a migration background, place is likely to be multi-sited, with experiences in the place of residence produced and re-produced in relation to places elsewhere.

With the high-impact ambition of re-imagining socially inclusive ageing policies and practices, the project's interdisciplinary team (spanning Social Gerontology, Sociology, Geography, Social Policy, Social Anthropology, Race and Ethnicity Studies, Migration Studies and Public Health) of highly experienced academic investigators will research in partnership with BAMER groups and other key local and national stakeholders. These are included variously in the project as Co-investigators, Policy & Practice Partners, Community Researchers, Voice Forum and Stakeholder Platform members. In undertaking impactful co-produced research, we will centre the lived experience of BAMER older people, employing a creative 'storying' approach throughout the project. This will give us a participant-led, inclusive and adaptive way of developing knowledge with those who have experienced exclusion and/or exploitation. Through an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, we will co-construct a more pluralistic and inclusive knowledge-base and provide a catalyst for change, identifying creative policy and practice steps at micro, meso and macro levels to prevent the risks of exclusion and to promote inclusive ageing.

*We prefer to use the term "Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic and Refugee" in full, but space constrains us.


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