Laurence Tessier

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Ecole des Mines

Grant number

Gr. 9436

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Tessier, Dr. Laurence A., Ecole des Mines, Paris, France - To aid research on 'Being a Brain? An Anthropological Inquiry into Personhood, Care and Dementia'

LAURENCE A. TESSIER, Ecole des Mines, Paris, France, received a grant in April 2017 to aid research on ‘Being a Brain? An Anthropological Inquiry into Personhood, Care and Dementia.’ This ethnography of nursing homes starts from one emblematic situation: the ordeal of the end of life of a man or a woman affected by dementia, living in an institution in our modern societies. Dementia is not only an incurable disease; it leads moreover to a progressive loss of identity: the person affected by Alzheimer’s disease is at risk of ‘not being herself’ anymore. This judgement, which subscribes to the neuroscientific reduction of our personhood to cerebral mechanisms, is challenged by Alzheimer’s associations, who, in order to take care of these patients, place the ‘person within’ at the center of the medical experience. This ethnography examines the pragmatics of this epistemological and ethical challenge, by inquiring as to how caring practices concretely take into account the person living with dementia, and address, moreover, her subjectivity. It does so by describing the constraints, moral dilemmas and epistemic tensions which characterize the care for persons who are defined at the same time by the continuity and by the disappearance of their singularity. In two venues situated in France and devoted to the care of dementia sufferers, the inquiry analyzes the tensions between the biological and the social interpretations of personhoods, as well as it describes and compares which ‘persons’ are produced by these milieus of care.