A gerontological imagination of age and ageing in Burundian proverbs: From a lexical to a contextual analysis
Keywords:culture, kirundi proverbs, linguistic analysis, gerontology, old age
It is now widely accepted that ‘‘age’’ and ‘‘ageing’’ are cultural concepts that are open to questions. The thinking encouraged by critical gerontology has been crucially important in provoking questions about the complexities of later life, age and ageing. Similarly, the interrogation of stories of age and ageing via literary approaches and as found in proverbs are increasingly recognized as an important source of knowledge for mining the intricacies of later life. This article represents an attempt to examine some of the ways in which Burundians conceive of later life through Kirundi proverbs. The critical question here is “how do Burundians, even within the same age or sex, conceive or represent old age?” To answer this question, a number of proverbs about both males and females have been examined to decorticate the underpinnings in old age and ageing. This analysis was enhanced by reference to critical gerontology, which among other tenets, postulates that “aging [is] a multifaceted change” where “aging involves biological changes in individuals at varying rates. The transitions associated with growing older are probably related to chronological age, and the process of aging itself is multidimensional in nature”. The objective is thus to examine, through carefully selected proverbs, the representation of old age in Burundian proverbs and secondly, to offer a linguistic analysis of the ways in which the meanings have been packaged. The article concludes with suggestions concerning the uses that perspectives from critical gerontology could have for these discourses and some of the questions it might help scholars of ageing ask about proverbs of ‘‘age’’.
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