Cosmopolitan Aging in Urban Zanzibar: Elderhood, Health and Transnational Care Spaces Related to Oman

Population aging, urbanization and transnationalization are three major developments shaping the 21st century all over the world and especially in Africa. This social anthropological PhD thesis takes up the case of the East African Swahili city of Zanzibar in Tanzania to illustrate the wide range of experiences of elderhood, health and care in heterogeneous urban contexts. Based on seventeen months of multi-sited ethnographic research in the city of Zanzibar (Tanzania) and Muscat (Oman), this dissertation analyzes norms and practices of aging and caregiving from the perspective of elderly Zanzibari, as well as their relatives and acquaintances within local, cosmopolitan and transnational spaces. This PhD thesis further makes a point for analyzing elderhood not as a uniform and stable stage of life but that one should pay attention to diverse and ever changing health situations and their consequences for elderly persons’ experiences of aging and caregiving. An analysis from this perspective sheds light on gendered aspects of aging and care, and how older men and women’s access to social spaces opens-up and closes depending on their health situation. This study counters simplistic depictions of older men and women in Sub-Saharan Africa as solely tied to local places and spaces but it also argues against a newer trend of assuming aging and caring as completely transnational phenomena. Instead, it provides insights into the many facets of everyday lives of elderly agents who interact actively with others to provide and receive care.

Supervisor:Brigit Obrist

Co-Supervisor:Andrea Maihofer 


Sandra Staudacher is a medical anthropologist and lawyer with expertise in social and cultural aspects of health, aging and care. She is a lecturer and PhD candidate at the Institute of Social Anthropology and member of the Graduate School of Gender Studies at the University of Basel. She wrote her dissertation “Cosmopolitan Aging in Zanzibar: Elderhood, Health and Transnational Care Spaces related to Oman” in the frame of a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funded project. Sandra Staudacher completed her BA and MA studies in Social Anthropology and Law at the University of Basel (UNIBAS) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL). From 2015 to 2016 she was a research fellow at Harvard Medical School. At the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) she collaborated as scientific assistant (2016) and as consultant (2017). From 2013 to 2014 Sandra Staudacher was a visiting lecturer at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA). Besides her academic activities, she worked as a legal consultant and program manager counselling asylum seekers with the Red Cross Switzerland and HEKS (2009-2012).

Memberships:Centre for African Studies

Portrait Sandra Staudacher G3S 2018

Sandra Staudacher
Ethnologisches Seminar
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4051 Basel

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