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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.100

Bonding at the very end: Inter-species solidarity in the face of dementia


  • Dr. Cristina DOUGLAS

Primary authors


Solidarity appears to be at the core of dementia narratives, policies and practices of care. The concept of solidarity is encompassed into that of compassion, which informs national and local policies, and in the practice of person-centred approach to care. On the other hand, the narratives of dementia as loss of self reveal the importance of solidarity by unmasking the relational and dividual character of selfhood/personhood. This requires a new anthropological framing of what it means to be human in the face of significant cognitive diminishment and loss in late life by revisiting the hegemonic philosophical tradition of human exceptionalism as narratives of successful human selfhood as autonomous, independent physically and mentally. I propose an exploration of this form of solidarity/relationality by looking at two forms of practices in dementia care and medical knowledge making: one, by looking at the practice of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) for people with dementia living in an institutional facility; second, by looking at narratives of demented pets and the calls of scientists for solidarity from pets’ owners in understanding human dementia. I will focus my presentation on: AAT volunteers’ motivations of ‘sharing’ their pet with people with dementia and the role of the animal’s own will in engaging with them; on the cultural intimacy that facilitates and emerges from AAT interactions; as well as on stories of demented pets and the calls for solidarity from their ‘human companion’ in the face of dementia, both as pet owners and potential contributors to scientific understanding of dementia.