EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Collaboration and intimacy in the politics of care work

Location T-416
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00


Kristine Krause (University of Amsterdam) email
Izabella Main (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Papers in this panel discuss collaboration and intimacy in regard to long term care arrangements and (welfare) states. Focus will be on care in informal and formal settings, old age, dementia, mental and physical disability, mobility of carers and aging bodies in local and transnational contexts.

Long Abstract

In many countries a silent revolution is going on in regard to the increase of ageing populations and ruptures in care regimes and established politics of entitlements. Responses to the care gap - the growing number of people requiring care and dwindling numbers and resources to provide it- differ depending on whether there is a weak, reconfigured, or non-existent welfare state. Anthropologist have for long investigated issues of generalized reciprocity and exchange between generations. How useful are these classical concepts in discussing the care gap and quality of care? How can we research the intimacy of care work in intersection with politics of entitlements?

We invite contributions exploring new forms of collaborations and intimacies in care arrangements, as well as ethnographic studies addressing wider issues of changing relationships between individuals and (welfare) states. Papers could focus on old age, dementia, mental and physical disability, frailty, and long term care in informal and formal settings, involving mobility of carers and aging bodies, in local and transnational contexts.

Questions discussed in the panel include, but are not restricted to following issues:

• Care arrangements and politics of entitlements in contexts without, weakening or reconfiguring welfare state;

• The meaning of intimacy and collaboration in the co-production of care work, including the wider organizational and technical infra structures;

• Unexpected collaborations in care settings that lead to 'good enough' care, including new technologies, but also informal, and formal carers;

• Transnational migration of care workers;

• Migration of ageing bodies to places where care work is cheaper.

Discussant: Robert Pool (University of Amsterdam)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Re-enacting families: the boundary between professional care workers and informal care givers defined along with the relative care support system in Finland

Author: Erika Takahashi (Chiba University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes the border between care work and informal care by introducing the relative care support services in Finland. By describing the interaction between municipal personnel and relative care takers, the ideas of professionalism, intimacy and independence are to be reexamined.

Long Abstract

Even in Nordic Welfare States, there are structural changes of local welfare systems urged by the neoliberalistic ideology. Under serious pressure to cut costs, deinstitutionalization is ongoing. Instead of formal care provided by municipalities, relatives who could take care of their elderly are came into political focus in this imminent welfare setup. Questions arise from this current are; what is the "performed" value of relatives or families in this context? Is this re-evaluation of relative care merely activating the traditional ideas of relatives or families? Or has the post-modern "confluent" types of families taken over the role of informal care? Is there role shifting from formal to informal care?

This paper is to examine the relative care support system which came into force since mid 2000s. New law defines relative care as "taking care of elderly, handicapped or people with disease by relatives or someone who is near the one in need of care" and ensures these relative caregivers a financial allowance and respites from their care giving tasks. Logically, this broadens the definition of relative to almost anyone and regards him or her as a care worker by ensuring his or her rights as part of an official work force.

However, this professional rights and intimate feelings often mixed up within the actual practice of care giving. Therefore, by describing the interaction between municipal personnel and relative care givers, the ideas about families or relatives, intimacy, professionalism and independence are to be re-examined.

Care for disabled elders in Bingtuan, China

Author: Heila Sha (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I wish to discuss the care provided to disabled elders and elders affected with dementia, based on one year fieldwork in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (Bingtuan), China.

Long Abstract

Most members of Bigntuan are migrants from other provinces, arrived at different times since the establishment of PRC(1949), in processes generally coordinated by the government. The Bingtuan is recognized as a corporation, allowing its members access to the modern pension systems, health insurance and other benefits. However, the Bingtuan elders are suffering from different diseases, which prevents them from enjoying their lives. Traditionally, elders lived with married sons, and care for the elders was the main obligation of sons. Nonetheless, in Bingtuan nowadays, with the rapid increase in rural-urban migration since the economic reform, most younger generations move to other cities in search of jobs. Even those who live nearby have difficulties in offering assistance considering their jobs and their own children or grandchildren. Therefore, spouses become the main care-givers. Unfortunately, most of them are also facing health problems. Plus, the relationship between couples in the past also makes it different in offering care for disabled or dementia elders. The high price of care for disabled or dementia due to the shortage of professional care workers, and conservative ideas of elders based on traditional norms also create the care gap. Therefore, I want to investigate the practice and models of care for disabled or dementia elders, the meaning of intimacy and collaboration in care work, how the past experience affects the quality and attitude of offering help, and how traditional patterns of help and care are changing in the face of contemporary social-political and economic transitions.

Intimate intricacies of domestic/care work among migrants in Barcelona

Author: Gladis Aguirre Vidal (Stockholm University)  email

Short Abstract

This discussion shows the difficulties presented in the process of professionalising domestic / care work when emotions and metaphorical self identifications ("like a family") become crucial parts of daily routines.

Long Abstract

This presentation is about female migrants and their incorporation into a global economy that celebrates and requires individual flexibility. Here I follow how the metaphor "like a family" mirrors women's way of creating both sustenance and meaning in the new society where they arrive. They see themselves as the "sources" of love and care in their roles as domestic and care workers. The questions concern the intimate sides of the work and the ethnographic material relates to migrant women from Ecuador who takes care of elderly Spanish pensioners, a rapidly growing group in Spanish society. I argue that the circulation of money, gifts and the opportunity to gain legal status, stimulate social relationships and contribute to develop strong feelings. This is not just about rational calculations, but it shows moral and cultural tendencies, and even how individuals in general create possibilities for life and dignity under the specific requirements of the global economy, where subjective feelings meet financial requirements.

We were not friends, we were enemies: strategies, collaboration and mistrust between Croatian caregivers in Italy

Author: Duga Mavrinac (Institute for Anthropological research)  email

Short Abstract

This paper presents the mostly hidden phenomenon of Croatian caregivers in Italy, the so called badanti. The main goal will be to investigate on forms of alliances, collaboration, strategies of coping as well as mistrust and collision between badanti, and changes in practices and images of care.

Long Abstract

In the last decades non-citizens have played an important role in sustaining the European families, and the employment of a migrant caregiver has been regarded as a suitable strategy for families with need for full-time carers. Following the collision of the Yugoslav state and the consequent war, more than 30 000 female migrants engage in the sector of elderly care (as so called badanti) creating a transnational care chains between Italy and Croatia.

Caregiving, as a phenomenon on the intersection of issues around migration, citizenship, employment, woman rights and elderly care, situates the female worker within a certain set of social, economic and cultural relationships. However these often marginalized, invisible and vulnerable subjects make part, in Croatia, of a statistically invisible migration mostly unrecognised by the authorities. On the other hand their work is usually considered embarrassing and humiliating by the wider Croatian society.

Unprofessional carer gains, through time, a capital of networks and know-how with the elderly, which she can use and activate in order to respond to the extremely unstable and temporal nature of her work. My goal is to focus on relationships activated by and between badanti in Italy as well as back home. Therefore while investigating on forms of collaboration, alliances, strategies of coping, collision and mistrust I will also try to elucidate the hidden dynamics of the social and cultural representation of caregiving and the role played by the ambivalent representation of care practices in creating the badanti social and cultural status in Croatia.

Against all odds: quality of care in a national centre for elderly deaf people in The Netherlands

Author: Anja Hiddinga (Unversity of Amsterdam)  email

Short Abstract

This paper reports the first results of ethnographic research on the subjective experience of quality of care by the inhabitants of a unique centre for elderly Deaf people in The Netherlands. Against the national trends, the centre with its special care arrangements is steadily growing.

Long Abstract

In The Netherlands special facilities for care of the elderly are rapidly disappearing. Decentralisation of services and transfer of care tasks to family members have to compensate shrinking budgets. Against this tide, the country's national centre for elderly Deaf people 'De Gelderhorst', is growing. A waiting list shows the willingness of deaf elderly to move from their familiar environment to this centre and abandon local social networks, even though De Gelderhorst is located in a town without connections to deaf schools or deaf clubhouses. However, the centre offers special care arrangements in sections for independent living, care and nursing: Dutch Sign Language is 'house language', there are deaf staff members and technologies tuned for deaf people. The building has been designed for deaf inhabitants.

It is the centre's mission to not only contribute to the wellbeing of it's inhabitants through high quality care and service, but also to strengthen the position of the elderly Deaf. Underlying this mission is the idea that deaf people an emancipating group with it's own language and culture.

How do these ideas and provisions inform notions of good care? How do they shape practices of everyday life in the centre? And how do the deaf elderly perceive the quality of such care arrangements? What is the meaning of language, carers, other 'carees', technology, architecture in their experience of wellbeing? In this paper the first results of ethnographic research on the subjective experience of quality of care by the inhabitants if De Gelderhorst will be presented

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.