Revaluing Care Workshop 2: September 2013, University of Adelaide, Australia.

At the beginning of September 2013 our Revaluing Care network had its second workshop, following an earlier workshop at Keele University, UK, in September 2012. This second meeting over two days at the University of Adelaide, in South Australia was marked by its attention to analytical concerns that had been raised in the 2012 session. It was also marked by much convivial discussion over food and wine at the end of each day.

We met in a room with views of the city all around us and, fortunately, the sun shone almost all of the time. What I recall most clearly was the very high standard of the papers, the sense of an extraordinary level of conversation within a group which has now forged a strong identity. The degree of confluence of ideas, of substantive and strongly supportive debate was striking. It is rare to attend such an event and feel constantly engaged by an extremely stimulating exchange of views. The event was both inclusive and demanding in the very best sense.

The workshop looked at a wide variety of existing services around care and their impacts on social interconnection (such as services around HIV/AIDs, young people and dementia care), as well as a range of existing legal and policy frameworks. This international orientation informed extensive discussion around new ways of conceiving care (for instance, in relation to social activism, migration and cross-national mobilities). However, it also enabled us to consider where the term care begins to fall away, or seems insufficiently recognised or activated. Consequently there was a significant interchange over the two days concerning the analytical and practical boundaries of care (for example, in relation to sexualities, diverse families, the notion of the human, marginalised services and public institutions seemingly distant from care including parliaments and courts).

These deliberations led to a range of theoretical and terminological discussions around the continuing usefulness of the notion of care, around what it covers and its limits.

The success of the workshop was not only evident in the strengthening of the network as an active, participatory and supportive research community, but also obvious in the final discussions around building research teams, projects and publications across the world and across disciplinary constraints. We aim as a result to produce articles, books of collected works, and grant applications. Many of these aims are now in process. The group was also firmly of the view that further workshops would be very worthwhile and assist in the development of these aims. So, watch this space.

In sum, I can only say that I, for one, gained immensely from the workshop and now have an even stronger sense of the considerable research capabilities of the group. This is a group with much to gain from our continuing association! It is one of the few research clusters that I have been involved in which shows ongoing promise of generating important intellectual exchanges and innovative new work .

Professor Chris Beasley

Discipline of Politics & International Studies (POLIS)
School of Politics and History
 
Co-Director, The Fay Gale Centre for Research on Gender

Intergenerational programmes and LGBT people

How can LGBT people of different age groups support each other? This is a key question that the ESRC seminar ‘Intergenerational issues and LGBT people’ held at Oxford on 9th September 2013 aimed to address. The seminar brought together around 40 people – including academics, policy-makers, service providers, third-sector organisations, and advocacy groups – among them younger and older LGBT people.

Older and younger LGBT people have grown up under vastly different socio-historical circumstances. The priorities of needs and concerns of different age groups would be different. Even within the ‘community’ itself, especially among gay men, the focus on youth means that ageism against older people can be rampant. At the same time, reverse ageism against younger people, characterizing younger people as shallow and worry-free, is not uncommon. All these can lead to an impression that younger and older people are marked by ‘differences’ and different generations of LGBT people are torn apart from each other.

However, it needs to be recognized there are similar difficulties both groups face. Despite the speed and extent to which society has progressed on LGBT issues, both older and younger LGBT people still face minority stress on a daily basis, which is related to a range of mental health issues, such as social isolation, discrimination and depression. Service providers, be they educational and employment providers in the case of younger LGBT people, or care homes or day care centres in the case of older LGBT people, still work on heteronormative assumptions. Staff in such settings generally remain ignorant and unaware of, if not hostile towards, LGBT issues.

The International Longevity Centre (ILC) thus argued the case for intergenerational projects as a way to bring older and younger LGBT people together. It was argued that the range of benefits can include:

•    Unifying a diverse community;
•    Reducing age stereotypes;
•    Development of social skills and confidence;
•    Development of practical skills;
•    Exposure of young LGBT people to older LGBT role models;
•    Improved understanding of the needs of older and younger LGBT people;
•    Preservation and increased awareness of LGBT history;
•    Sharing lifecourse experiences and providing social support. (ILC 2011: 5)

It has been repeatedly pointed out in previous posts (http://revaluingcare.net/older-peoples-day-including-older-lgbt-people/, http://revaluingcare.net/a-darker-side-to-care/ ), that older LGBT people can be particularly in need of formal care because they are less likely to have children and more likely to live alone than their heterosexual counterparts. On a point related to this, The ILC argued that intergenerational projects can provide older LGBT people with the opportunities ‘to develop informal relations with younger LGBT people that could ultimately lessen the need for heavy reliance on social care providers, or may help in negotiating relationships with these’ (ILC 2011: 10).

Of course this is not to say it is easy to bring different generations of LGBT people together. But if intergenerational projects could help to bring about a more caring LGBT community that is defined more by empathy and mutual understanding across age groups, how it can be done would deserve more discussions.

Reference:
International Longevity Centre (2011) Celebrating Intergenerational Diversity An evaluation of three projects working with younger and older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/files/Report_1.pdf

Yiu Tung Suen is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (E-mail address: suenyiutung@cuhk.edu.hk).

‘Transnational families, migration and the circulation of care.’

By Loretta Baldassar & Laura Merla

Every day during his lunch break at around 1pm, Alberto, who lives in Perth, Australia, phones his 85 year old father, Angelo, who lives in Rome, Italy. Angelo, who is not in the best of health, is usually sitting at the kitchen table having his morning coffee and bread roll. “It’ll only be 6am in Italy, but Dad will always be waiting for my call,” Alberto explains. Since Alberto’s mother’s sudden and unexpected death a year ago, Alberto, an only child, has tried to manage his father’s increasing care needs from a distance. He took 6 weeks unpaid leave from work to travel to Italy to arrange the funeral for his mother and put in place care supports for his father. Both Alberto and Angelo see aged care facilities as a last resort option; they are expensive and have a social stigma that reflects badly on families. Angelo wishes to remain living in his own home for as long as he can. Moving to Australia is not an option because of Angelo’s failing health; furthermore, aged migration to Australia is costly with prohibitive requirements. Given the aged care regimes in both countries, father and son adopted the commonest solution and hired a domestic worker, Maria, to work from 9 to 5 each day, preparing lunch and dinner, doing the cleaning and shopping and taking Alberto to his medical visits. Maria has agreed to move into the spare room as a live-in carer if Angelo’s health deteriorates. A long-time family friend, Nadia, the daughter of Angelo’s old friend and neighbour, Nello, sets up a Skype every Sunday when she visits her father (who lives next door). Alberto feels this is the best way to “get a thorough update”.

Every Saturday and Sunday, at around 6am, Maria phones her 10 year old son, Diego, in the Dominican Republic. She arrived in Rome a year ago on a tourist visa. Maria planned to find work as a domestic and raise enough money to bring Diego to Italy. In the meantime, Diego lives with his grandmother Lucia, Maria’s mother. Twelve people currently live in Lucia’s crowded house, including her frail partner Arturo, two of Maria’s brothers, their partners and children, and Maria’s sister Anna’s three children. Anna is a domestic employee in the US. Maria and Anna call Lucia a few times a week to talk with and discuss their children, exchange support with their mother, and talk to other family members present at the time of their call. The two sisters are also in regular contact with their oldest sister, Teresa, who lives in Belgium with her Spanish husband and their three children, and the three women send monthly remittances to their mother. In spite of the distance, Teresa plays a central role in her extended family, and is considered by all as the head of the household that is stretched across thousands of kilometres and several countries. Teresa checks with her brothers and sisters-in-law that Arturo, who suffers from diabetes and has lost his sight, takes his medicines and eats properly, and sends emergency remittances when a specific need arises. She visits her family every year, and during these visits she works with her brothers on the renovation of the family house.

These case studies highlight the way family members from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds care for each other through a process of asymmetrical reciprocal exchange, across and despite the distance that separates them, and the way that care circulates between them. The idea that care circulates within transnational family networks is indeed central our edited book entitled ‘Transnational families, migration and the circulation of care : understanding mobility and absence in family life’ (Routledge).

With increased mobility and improvements in both travel and communication technologies, more and more people are experiencing transnational family lives. The chapters that make up this volume cover a rich array of case studies including analyses of the inequalities between transnational families who circulate care between developing nations in Africa, Latin America and Asia to wealthier nations in North America, Europe and Australia. There are also examples of intra- and extra- European, Australian and North American migration and care circulation, which involve the mobility of both the unskilled and working class as well as the skilled middle and aspirational classes.

Whether pushed or pulled out of homelands in search of safe asylum, better economic futures or improved lifestyles, increasing numbers of people are separated from their family by distance and national borders. Those family members who ‘stay behind’ or ‘stay put’ (as it were) in their place of birth or ancestral homeland, also become part of social relationships stretched across time and place, even though they might never actually relocate or even move at all. We believe a focus on the disparate trajectories of care circulation helps us to better understand mobility and absence in family life, so that we might theorise transnational families as contemporary family forms in their own right. This book highlights, in particular, how the sense of belonging in transnational families is sustained by the reciprocal, though uneven, exchange of caregiving, in the form of financial, emotional and practical support, ‘hands on’ care as well as accommodation. By doing so, this volume challenges narrow definitions of care to consider the portability of care, a fundamental topic for our contemporary lives.

Sources:

Baldassar L. & Merla L. (Eds) (2013) Transnational Families, Migration and the Circulation of Care: Understanding mobility and absence in family life. Routledge, Transnationalism Series

Baldassar L., Kilkey M., Merla L. and Wilding R. (Forthcoming) ‘Transnational Families’. Revised Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Families.

c/o Professor Loretta Baldassar

Anthropology and Sociology
The University of Western Australia (M255)
35 Stirling Highway
CRAWLEY WA 6009
Australia

Caring in Kenya, by Ann Stewart

While young men and possibly young women were laying siege to a shopping mall in Nairobi, killing young and old indiscriminately despite press reports to the contrary, I was spending the day with Maasai families experiencing care at first hand.  While they were forcing their way into this space where love and care was being bought in the same way as elsewhere in the global market place, through children’s cooking parties, coffee and tea drinking and the body work of hairdressers and cosmetic sales persons, I was sitting outside a one roomed home, made with corrugated iron sheets, drinking smoky milk tea from a pot on the open fire, with 4 generations of women from one family, the eldest 100 years old, the youngest 2 years.  The great grandmother was given her food by her grand- daughter.  She was sitting on her goat skin leaning against her hut wall eating her lunch from a bowl with a spoon.  The food had been provided by her last surviving child of 12, her youngest daughter in her 60s now living with her mother, having moved from the local ‘town’, some 8 kilometres away on a deeply pitted dirt road.  The ugali and goat meat with vegetables had been made into a stew on an open fire.  She spooned out all the liquid on to the earth in front of her because she wanted it dry.  Her daughter and grand- daughter looked on while she did this, ensuring that the food did not tip out.  When we had arrived in the sort of SUV which is ubiquitous in ‘developing’ world contexts with her grand- daughter and two great grand-daughters, she had come out to greet them but immediately went back inside the hut and come out again carrying all her belongings in a cloth bundle, secured on her head and back, which was almost her size, and her long stick.  She was intent on getting back to the town to visit her grand-daughter.  She was persuaded gently to put the bundle down and to have her food and to share tea and talk.   She was not going to be able to go back with us.  She and her widowed daughter had moved here because a grandson had taken responsibility for them.  Sons are important.  They provide this economic protection although widowed women are socially powerful within families.    We debated how we would leave when the time came.  The answer was for the men in the party to drive off in the vehicle and wait further off and for the women to stay behind.  Then at a moment when we hoped she was distracted we ran towards the vehicle.  She was not fooled and proceeded to follow us with remarkable swiftness for her age.  We clambered in and left her with her daughter to return to their home.

We were there because my Kenyan research student had studied the interaction between gender and ethnicity in matters relating to land in 3 different communities in Kenya.  The grand daughter was the sister of her interpreter for the Maasai field work.  Agnes had spent time much time and many experiences with this group of women who in Maasai terms are a wealthy and influential family, owning much land.  She was paying a visit to reminisce and to catch up on events.  I was sharing this visit as her teacher.  I also had a ‘husband’ my male partner with me.  Agnes had her husband and we had two male drivers, one for the Maasai area, an influential young man who had assisted Agnes with her fieldwork in this area, and a driver whom Agnes had used generally for all her fieldwork who drove for her family.  Undertaking fieldwork in rural Kenya is not easy.  It involves many challenges which I was only now learning about as we met up with those who had been involved.  Everyone was enjoying the stories. The interpreter’s sister, who set up many of the interviews, had been 8 months pregnant at one stage.  Her mother made it clear that Agnes must be prepared to attend the birth if this should occur on one trip which involved very bumpy terrain.   On one occasion the interpreter had had to climb a tree to try to get a mobile signal to enable someone to come and tow the vehicle out of the ditch.   The Maasai driver had been able to clear the road of a large herd of goats while the Kisii driver had not.  When the great grand- mother had been interviewed she had wanted Agnes to write down her entitlement to land on a piece of paper.  She still had this piece of paper.

I am deeply uneasy about the potential voyeurism involved in this type of narrative but it was not that sort of day.  The men in the party wandered off somewhere and the women chatted to each other lined up along the hut wall for a number of hours.  They spoke Swahili and the Maasai language and English when necessary.  I was made to feel completely welcome but not special.  I shared photos from my newly bought flash smart phone of my two small grandchildren.  They were struck by their very blue eyes.

A few days before I had delivered a public lecture entitled ‘caring about care; recognising and regulating body work in a global market’ at the British Institute in Eastern Africa.  It was based upon my book Gender, Law and Justice in a Global Market (CUP 2011).  As part of the presentation I had shown some photos of the elderly in institutional settings in the UK: older women lined up against walls in wheel chairs, heads down.  I had shown pictures of migrant care workers tending to these elderly frail people.  In the discussion which followed the presentation, we had had a very interesting discussion of the tensions and dilemmas that urban middle class/professional women face in coping with paid work and caring responsibilities in urban Nairobi where use of paid assistance in the home – domestic workers, nannies, care workers generally –are the norm.  We discussed the consequences of privatising social responsibilities with no welfare state safety net  – individual women feel responsible for the lot of other women who have left children and other family members behind to undertake these roles.  The women are not paid enough to replace their care and they may be far from their own homes in the informal settlements in Nairobi.  The Kenyan state has provided some legal protections and minimum wage requirements.  But how are these to be met by individual women with no support from the state?  Women are pitted against each other.

I looked after my mother and father in our home for the last two years of their lives.  My mum was by then very frail and needed constant care.  They both died aged over 90 in our home.  I recognised the care that the women around me were giving on Saturday.  I recognised its quality.  I recognised the power relationships, the negotiations, the vulnerabilities, the love.  I saw the dignity and worth of this very elderly woman’s life – her clean clothes, her neat hair, her alertness, her sense of being part of this community, her frustration at not being able to out run us to the vehicle.

Ann Stewart

School of Law University of Warwick