About this Blog
As the working title of my book, To Conquer Confusion describes both the ostensible goal of finding an effective treatment or prevention for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and the challenge of creating and maintaining coherent intellectual and institutional frameworks that could connect and coordinate the diverse experiences, interests and efforts of the many different kind of people connected to each other in the dementia field. As the title of my blog, To Conquer Confusion will also describe my own struggles to develop this work while answering the conflicting demands of life.
So, among other things, this blog chronicles my research, writing and other activities related (sometimes loosely!) to the history of Alzheimer’s disease and aging in the modern world. I am the author of Self, Senility and Alzheimer’s Disease in Modern America, which is so far the only attempt to describe the historical development of concepts of senility and Alzheimer’s disease in a broad socio-cultural context. My aim in writing it was not only to explain the rise and development of Alzheimer’s disease as a medical and social category, culminating in it’s emergence as a major public issue in the United States in the late 1970s, but to explain why we have come to think of it as we have, and in particular why we have come to be filled with such fear and dread at the prospect of losing our cognitive abilities as we age.
I am beginning work on a second book on Alzheimer’s that will focus more directly on the medical world that was created after 1980 by the massive investment of financial, institutional, and intellectual capital into research on the causes of and possible treatments for dementia by both the federal government and private industry. This influx of resources transformed dementia research from a small field with a broad agenda, to a massive, multifaceted research enterprise focused much more narrowly on biomedical research. The working title for this new book is To Conquer Confusion, a phrase that describes both the ostensible goal of the field and its most salient challenge: maintaining coherent institutional and intellectual frameworks that connect and coordinate the efforts of diverse practitioners working on different agendas within modern biomedicine. In many ways what happened in the Alzheimer’s field since 1980 reflects broader changes in the scale and structure of medicine during the same time period, so understanding how these developments shaped the way that researchers in the dementia field worked, the way that physicians diagnosed and treated dementia, the way that patients and their family members experienced both dementia and the treatment and care received by medical and health care providers can help move us to a richer, more nuanced understanding of what medicine has become since the latter half of the twentieth century.