Culture and the Physical Body: Cross-Cultural Variations in Defining Physical Aggression in Alzheimer’s Patients

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Physical aggression is a distressing yet characteristic condition of Alzheimer’s disease. Although scholarship has focused on aggression in Alzheimer’s patients, scant attention has been paid to the definition thereof in different countries. Through a reappropriation of Aristotle’s framework of ethos, pathos, logos, we share our research on the definition of physical aggression in Alzheimer’s disease across different country settings. Specifically, we illustrate definitional variances and how these are linked to the particular cultural settings in which they are embedded. This study makes two contributions to the field of social sciences. First, studies on Alzheimer's disease are highly relevant as many countries grapple with dementia in the rising number of elderly in their populations. Second, it has a practical impact on the compilation of future instructional materials, and the incorporation of literacy artifacts into the instruction for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. Consequently, how this disease is understood holds great importance for researchers and policymakers at local, national and global level. Definitions are gathered from medical textbooks and materials handed out to caregivers in the United States, Germany and India. Language used in these materials is then analyzed to uncover similarities and differences in how physical aggression is defined in terms of the patients and social norms’ background and in relation to the environment. We argue that definitions can never be separated from the cultural and social situations in which they are embedded. Therefore, to understand the conventions behind definitions and how they are portrayed in language, in particular in writing, is crucial for an understanding of writing and how it establishes responsibilities to act on what we find, and develops our communal response to the complex realities of contemporary society. In a larger context, this study is not only beneficial for the field of composition studies and the study of literacy but also through its connection with other fields within the university, for instance, for medicine, anthropology, or sociology.


Keywords: Cross-Cultural, Language in Text, Gesture
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Culture and the Physical Body


Dr. Sigrid Streit

Ph.D. Student, English Department, Kent State University
Kent, Ohio, USA

Currently (since Fall 2005), I am a Doctoral-student in Rhetoric and Composition: Literacy, Rhetoric and Social Practice at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. I received my Master of Arts in English, Concentration: Rhetoric and Composition in December 2005 from Kent State University, Kent, Ohio and my Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics, Concentration: Business Communication, Minors: Psychology and Sociology in July 2004 from Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany.
I am interested in embodied knowlege, and the role text, metaphor, and gesture play in its mediation.

Betcy Jose-Thota

Ph.D. Student, University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA


Ref: I08P0285