Atmospheres of dementia care: Stories told through the bodies of men

  • Sarah Campbell

Student thesis: Phd


Atmospheres of Dementia Care: Stories told through the bodies of men is an ethnographic study exploring what role the experience of place plays, and the role gender has, in the lives of men living with dementia in a variety of care settings. The aim was to interpret the everyday embodied life for men living with dementia in care and their connection to atmosphere. The study was undertaken alongside a wider project colloquially known as The Hair and Care Project™ (ESRC Ref. 2011-2013; Dr Richard Ward, PI). The PhD study collected data across three fieldsites focusing on the experience of seven men living with dementia. It used a range of qualitative methods including 165 hours of participant observation from 39 observation sessions, along with informal conversations, five discussion groups and 12 interviews with a range of health and social care professionals, family carers and men living with dementia. The three fieldsites comprised of two residential care homes and one specialist dementia NHS assessment ward. Narrative analysis has been applied through close attention to affect and atmosphere in order to consider how collective bodies perform together the small stories of everyday life within these care settings. These stories have been developed to create and understand the emergence of atmospheric dimensions. Firstly I consider how the normative conditions and regulations within the care organisations direct and orientate staff and residents and produce atmospherics. These emerge through: i). The organisation and structure of time; ii) The tension of home-place versus work-place; iii) The management of men's bodies; iv). Gendering of atmosphere. I then go onto to show how these regulations and conditions produce resistive atmospheric moments, where the men push against and sometimes challenge the normative expectations of everyday life. In contrast to this, I then explore the creation of restorative atmospheric moments that emerge throughout the day and which are created through assemblages of sensory, embodied, non-human and human moments of connection. This work presents an opportunity to consider the bodily and intangible aspects of care that have tangible consequences for men with dementia who live in these spaces and their relationships with those who care for and support them. The study presents a rationale through which to understand care settings through a different lens, that of atmosphere, and to understand these spaces and the experiences of those working and living in them as multi-dimensional and affective.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJohn Keady (Supervisor) & Richard Ward (Supervisor)


  • Narrative
  • Sensory
  • Ethnography
  • Embodiment
  • Care
  • Masculinity
  • Dementia
  • Men
  • Gender
  • Atmosphere

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