Dr A.M.C. Swinnen
Aagje Swinnen holds a PhD in literary studies from Ghent University, Belgium (cf. Het slot ontvlucht, 2006). She joined the Center for Gender and Diversity of Maastricht University in 2006 when she was awarded a Veni postdoctoral fellowship from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Originally trained as a literary scholar, Swinnen has broadened the scope of her research to cultural studies of aging, focusing on the workings of age ideologies and the intersection of age and other markers of social difference in a wide variety of cultural texts, such as photography and film. She has published in journals, such as The Gerontologist, Ageing & Society, Dementia, Journal of Aging Studies, International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, and Feminist Media Studies, and co-edited the volumes Popularizing Dementia (with M. Schweda, 2015), Aging, Performance, and Stardom (with J.A. Stotesbury, 2012), and Seksualiteit van ouderen (2011).
Swinnen advocates the integration of social sciences and humanities approaches in the study of aging and later life. This is illustrated, for instance, by her projects on poetry and storytelling activities in person-centered dementia care (e.g., “Poëzie- en verhalenkabinet,” subsidized by the Dutch Cultural Participation Fund in collaboration with the Jan van Eyck Academie, 2015). Swinnen also studies how professional artists give meaning to creativity in later life (another collaboration with Jan van Eyck Academie in the framework of the Living Like an Artist program). With the support of the Diversity and Inclusivity Office of Maastricht University and with the intention to contribute to the further development of Maastricht University as an ‘age-friendly’ environment, she has also studied how academics experience the transition into retirement. In all projects, Swinnen collaborates with students to stimulate intergenerational learning.
Committed to stimulate dialogue among disciplines, Swinnen is co-founder of the European Network in Aging Studies (established with support of NWO in the program Internationalization in the Humanities) as well as co-editor of the journal Age, Culture, Humanities, published by the Royal Danish Library since 2022.
From October 2016-2020, Swinnen held the position of Socrates Endowed Chair International Humanism and the Art of Living at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht. Since August 2020, she holds a chair with specialized remit in Aging Studies at Maastricht University where she currently is the head of the Literature and Art department. From September 2017-2020, Swinnen chaired the interdisciplinary research group Arts, Media, and Culture at FASoS.
Swinnen’s area of expertise is humanistic aging studies. Her main research topics are:
- The representation of age (and its intersections with other crucial differences) in literature, photography, and film
- The meaning of participatory arts activities (specifically spoken word-based activities, such as the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, TimeSlips, and Shared Reading) in dementia care settings
- The way professional artists understand and give meaning to creativity in the later stages of their career
- The development of more ‘age-friendly’ universities