Expanding Personhood beyond Remembered Selves: The Sociality of Memory at an Alzheimer’s Center in Poland


Examining the social and processual dimensions of personhood can transform ethnographic and clinical understandings of “person‐centered care” in dementia care specifically and in medicine more generally. Ethnographic research among people with early‐stage Alzheimer’s disease in a day center in Poznań, Poland, shows that practices of remembering involving collective memory can sustain personhood and foster ties of relatedness among people with dementia, defying some expectations about the destructive effects of dementia on personhood. This apparent paradox between people with dementia’s loss of memory and their capacity to build social relations based on remembering can be resolved through expanding understandings of personhood to include practices of remembering involving collective pasts—in this case, through shared national frameworks and embodied practices of sociality. Attending to these two dimensions of collective memory reveals unexpected aspects of personhood among people with dementia.