Marc Augé: "Old age does not exist"

Let us stop believing that age defines us. In an original and provocative essay, A Ethnology of Self, Ageless Time , Marc Augé, ethnologist and anthropologist, invites us to emancipate ourselves from the social gaze.

Interview by Christilla Pellé-Douël

Psychologies: Why write about old age?

Marc Augé : Because I grew old! So that's a question that interests me. As we get older, we are faced with the paradox that we are forced to admit the truth of the numbers without feeling significantly different. I do not think we can induce someone's mentality from his age. Other factors come into play: there are old men and young sad men. So old age can not be equated with poor health or decline, even though, of course, it always ends badly [laughs]. This inequality in the face of aging and health is not just a question of age. This does not prevent its reality or that one raises the question of what it represents ...

Can we ignore his age?

M. A.: It is difficult to exist socially by totally ignoring one's age. There is a social dimension of age: that of the majority, that of retirement ... There comes a time when this constraint catches up with you. From this point of view, intellectuals have a special chance because they are not quite retired, some even never. They can, while retaining an intellectual activity, escape a too heavy determination of the age. As for the artists, especially the actors, I think the greatest are those whose interpretation is modeled on their age. I think of Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Louis Trintignant ... There is something comforting about that, a form of permanence, of presence to life. Nobody could play in their place.

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