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1While we were finalizing this introduction, British media outlets announced the death of the BBC news presenter George Alagiah who passed away, at the age of 60, and nine years after he had been diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer. In one of the articles commemorating Alagiah’s rich and generous life as well as his painful passing, a journalist evoked this memory of him:

Mr Alagiah spoke openly about the experience of living with cancer, joining a videocast for the charity Bowel Cancer UK in 2020 in which he said he sometimes felt he had the "easy part," living with bowel cancer while his loved ones had to watch. (Bowel Cancer UK 2020).

2This special issue is about the connection between seeing and care. It is about visuality in the context of illness, suffering and death and other places where seeing and care intermingle. It is about the watching of carers like the Alegiah’s loved ones, who stayed close while he was doing his “easy task” of living with cancer. But also about the watching done by Alegiah and others like him who experience both suffering and care, and who watch those who care for them. Moreover, it is about the watching of those who produced the videocast for bowel cancer campaign, and – last but not least- about watching done by anthropologists who craft the stories of care similar (or not) to that of Alegiah. Overall, this issue explores the connection between watching, being watched and care – both as an emic endeavor and an ethnographic practice, embedded in multisensory experience. It Is about the intersection of care with images, vision and visuality, which here unfolds in stories of how late adulthood is lived in various places in the world.

3The papers in this issue have emerged from the 2020 EASA panel “Illuminating Futures of the Life Course through Visual and Digital Media.” Since then this focus has been elaborated on through the first AGENET-AAGE-VANEASA collaboratively sponsored 2021 Ageing and Visual Anthropology Award (AVA Award). Visual and multimodal work explored in two of the articles, respectively by Jón Bjarki Magnusson (Saved by the (Half) Elf) and Shireen Walton and Laura Haapio-Kirk (Doing Multimodal Anthropology of Ageing with Cases from Italy and Japan) were award winners in this competition. To that mix have been added articles by Verónica Maria Pascoal Sousa and Barbara Pieta, which focus on visuality in the context of elders and dementia care set in Portugal and Italy respectively.

4Finally in this special issue we have two insightful commentaries, one by Philip Kao, focusing on the pieces by Sousa, Magnússon and Pieta and the other by Danny Miller, focusing broadly on the issue of multimodal care research and article by Walton and Haapio-Kirk. This latter commentary also touches upon other papers (by Jay Sokolovsky and David Prendergast) presented in the original 2020 EASA session which have not been published here.

  • 1 The final product here was greatly assisted through consultation with Beate Engelbrecht and Nadine (...)

5We hope this special edition will serve to foster a dialogue between visual studies and the anthropology of care, ageing and the life course. Indeed, care remains an undertheorized concept in visual anthropology (see Pieta in the introduction to this special issue, forthcoming) and ageing and the Life course only recently have started to be theorized by anthropologists in a multimodal context (see Pieta and Sokolovsky 2022). 1

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Pieta, Barbara and Jay Sokolovsky. 2023. Visual/Multimodal Anthropology of Aging, Care and the Life Course. Notes on the Emergent Field. Journal of Anthropology & Aging vol 1. DOI: 10.5195/aa.2023.426 (accessed November 30, 2023).


Bowel Cancer UK "Living With Bowel Cancer During the Coronavirus Pandemic. BBC’s George Alagiah hosts our videocast.” Monday 13 July 2020. (accessed November 30, 2023).

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1 The final product here was greatly assisted through consultation with Beate Engelbrecht and Nadine Wanono, co-editors of the online-journal AnthroVision. We are grateful to the authors contributing to this collection as well as several generous reviewers from the field of visual anthropology and anthropology of ageing, life course and care. While we are working on the theoretical introduction to this special issue, all the articles published here are ready and fully citable.

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Electronic reference

Barbara Pieta and Jay Sokolovsky, “Editorial”Anthrovision [Online], 9.2 | 2021, Online since 01 December 2023, connection on 21 June 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Barbara Pieta

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

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Jay Sokolovsky

Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Author of The Cultural Context of Aging 4th edition, 2020 Praeger, ABC Clio, and Indigenous Mexico Engages the 21st Century. A Multimedia Ethnography, Taylor and Francis 2016. [Update in Spanish by Ibero-Americana Press in 2022]

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