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Imagining a future without dementia: fictions of regeneration and the crises of work and sustainability

Burke, L (2017) Imagining a future without dementia: fictions of regeneration and the crises of work and sustainability. Palgrave Communications, 3. ISSN 2055-1045

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Abstract

This essay explores the kind of cultural and ideological work effected by the concept of dementia in contemporary popular culture in the global north through a critical reading of three ‘genre’ texts: Renny Harlin’s action movie meets sci-fi, Deep Blue Sea (1999), Vernor Vinge’s speculative fiction Rainbows End (2007) and Rupert Wyatt’s sci-fi drama, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), all of which engage with the possibility of neural regeneration and a cure for dementia. Dominant epistemologies of dementia and ageing often focus on the potentially unsustainable social and economic burden presented by an ageing population and the obligation to meet the needs of older people living with impairments. Exploring the articulation of these economic and political arguments alongside an analysis of the promissory discourses of bio-gerontology and neuroscience , this essay thus explores the ways in which dementia has emerged as an over-determined point of tangency upon which particular ideas about ageing, mortality, human value, sustainability and futurity are played out. The analysis of the cultural texts presented here exposes the limits of market and individual oriented responses to dementia and ageing within the broader context of what Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams have described as the ‘emerging crisis of work and surplus populations’. This paper argues that an exploration of the ideological fault-lines, imaginary resolutions and forms of wish fulfilment that emerge in the films and novel, enable us to identify the ideological limitations of the neoliberal discourses that circumscribe the ways in which we currently understand dementia and our imaginative investments in the promise of its cure.

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