Accepted Paper:

Badanti: immigrant women as caregivers to Italian elderly  


Sjaak van der Geest (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

(in cooperation with Silvana Rugolotto) Migrants do not only face problems of exclusion from or limited access to health care in European countries. Ironically, they also play an increasing role in offering care to members of the host community who are in need of help.

Paper long abstract:

East-European women leave their families and become caregivers to children and elderly in West-European countries. Their responsibilities at home are sacrificed for work in other people's households in order to earn money to secure a better future for those at home. Silvana Rugolotto carried out fieldwork in her hometown Verona, Northern Italy, among Badanti, migrant women taking care of Italian frail elderly people. Badanti, Italian families and elderly people find themselves locked in an uneasy contract; Badanti because they are exploited and unable to find better, formal employment; Italian families because they are aware that they fail to render their moral duty to their old parents and grandparents; and elderly people because they feel neglected and maltreated by their children and often do not accept the services of an unrelated migrant woman. The three parties also need each other, however. With the help of the others each party manages to make the best out of an almost impossible situation.

Both authors worked together to analyse the Badanti case in the light of critical medical anthropology. The situation of the Badanti and the Italian elderly shows how the internal contradictions of European macro and Italian domestic politics affect morality and care of individuals at the household level. The study illustrates the whimsical character of inclusion and exclusion of marginal groups in today's Europe.

Panel W051
Migrants' pathways to health care: access barriers and patterns of resilience and mutuality