2017 ENAS PhD Award

The European Network in Aging Studies is happy to announce the winner and runner up of the 2017 ENAS PhD Award. The Award Ceremony took place at the third ENAS conference  in the City Hall of Graz, Apr 29, 2017.


The 2017 ENAS PhD Award was granted to Dr. Hanne Laceulle, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht (NL) for her thesis Becoming who you are: Aging, self-realization and cultural narratives about later life (2016).


In her dissertation, Becoming who you are. Aging, self-realization and cultural narratives about life, Hanne Laceulle addresses how dominant cultural narratives about aging and later life tend to identify aging with inevitable decline, whereas aging well is equated with staying young for as long as possible. Problematically, however, both decline- and age-defying cultural narratives about aging fall short of acknowledging the positive potentials of later life. Moreover, these dominant cultural narratives cannot provide us with the necessary resources to integrate confrontations with existential vulnerability in our lives in a meaningful way. Drawing on the rich philosophical tradition of thought about self-realization, critically exploring the value of constitutive ethical concepts like autonomy, authenticity and virtue for the context of aging well, this book suggests contours for alternative cultural counter narratives about later life. Through these counter narratives, older individuals are supported in the search for a meaningful age identity, whereas society is evoked to recognize its older members as moral agents of their own lives, and stimulated to include them as valued participants.

The international jury praised the work for

  • its thorough engagement with philosophical as well as gerontological debates;
  • the humaneness and sensitivity that characterize Laceulle’s hermeneutical approach to self-realization and meaning in later life against the predominant paradigm of successful/healthy/positive aging;
  • the fact that her argumentation is beautifully crafted, open-minded, and persuasive.

    ​The runner up of the 2017 ENAS PhD Award is Dr. Anna Siverskog, Linköpings universitet (SE), for her thesis Queer lines: Living and ageing as an LGBTQ person in a heteronormative world (2016)


This study is based on life-course interviews with 20 LGBTQ-identified people, born between 1922 and 1950, 62-88 years old at the time of the interviews. Older LGBTQ-identified people have experienced tremendous changes in how gender identities and sexualities have been re-negotiated during their lifetimes. Even though there is a small but growing field of LGBTQ ageing studies, queer studies rarely problematizes age or ageing. At the same time, the gerontological field often assumes heterosexuality and cis-gender experiences. This dissertation uses a life course perspective and focuses on queer lines, life courses that move beyond the heteronormative expectations of how one should live one’s life in relation to gender identity and/or sexuality. The overarching aim of the study is to explore experiences and meanings of living and ageing as LGBTQ in a changing heteronormative world. Thematic analysis is used to analyse and interpret the empirical material. The theoretical framework in this study refers to critical gerontology, feminist theory and queer theory.

The analysis points to how experiences of gender identity and sexuality relate to historical and geographical contexts, and change over time. It illustrates how gender, age and sexuality intersect with heteronormative expectations of what a life is supposed to be like. To not live up to these expectations by not adjusting to binary gender norms or not getting married and having children may have large social as well as material consequences. These include having to hide one’s gender identity or sexuality, being socially repudiated and discriminated against or being subject to physical violence. Despite these conditions, the interviewees have oriented toward other lines - other ways of living where there is room for their gender identities and sexualities. The interviews point to the significance of social relations, networks and LGBTQ communities. LGBTQ groups and meeting places that have been created over time have facilitated in finding these other lines. Most of the narratives on ageing are similar to those of other people the same age, but there are also narratives that are specific to LGBTQ experiences. For some the ageing body has ruled out the possibility of undergoing transgender-specific surgeries. Others are worried about encountering homophobic or transphobic treatment when in need of care.

The results point to the importance of including critical approaches of gender and sexuality within gerontology and life course studies, and to including materiality when theorizing the ageing body. The dissertation also constitutes a theoretical bridge between gerontology, feminist theory and queer theory and contributes to more complex understandings of intersections between age, gender and sexuality to these fields.

The international jury praised the work for

  • its important contribution not just to LGBTQ understandings of aging but also to aging studies’ understandings of the life course;
  • its critical engagement with methodology and well-executed empirical research;
  • its accessible and pleasant writing style.

    ​The ENAS MA Award was not granted this year.

The jury for the 2017 ENAS PhD Award consisted of Prof. Aagje Swinnen (chair, Maastricht and Utrecht), Prof. Ricca Edmondson (Galway), Prof. Rüdiger Kunow (Potsdam), Prof. Ros Jennings (Gloucestershire), Dr. Emma Dominguez-Rué (Lleida), and Dr. Karin Lövgren (Gävle).

The jury of the 2017 ENAS MA Award consisted of Dr. Dagmar Gramshammer-Hohl (chair, Graz), Dr. Marija Geiger Zeman (Zagreb), and Dr. Anita Wohlmann (Mainz).