Accepted paper:

Balikbayan boxes, Skype conversations, and food sharing online as transnational family care

Author:

Helena Patzer (University of Warsaw)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I argue that the focus on food and feeding is an important aspect of transnational family life, practiced through sending food products home, supervising family consumption online, and also sharing in the family meals through internet communicators.

Paper long abstract:

The Philippines is well known for its migrant population worldwide, and has been analyzed as a perfect example of transnational migration. Among different practices spanning the host and home country, one very noticeable is sending packages home, the balikbayan boxes. Filipino migrants send home a multitude of things, and food is among these - special foods which are hard to obtain in the Philippines, and also products which are considered a luxury product. These include such products as i.e. condensed milk, Hershey's chocolate syrup, pancake powder. By looking at the things the immigrants put in packages, and the way these are received, I want to look at the dynamics of love, care, and intimacy in transnational families.

Transnational care is also expressed in long-distance conversations on Skype and other internet communicators. Those especially telling are the conversations centering on receiving or unpacking the balikbayan box, talking about the daily food consumption of the family, or planning long-term food expenses. Another side of this transnational communication is also the way the immigrant partakes in the family meals, through the use of the webcam and also sharing photos of food on social networking sites. Inviting immigrants to taste the food through the webcam is a common practice, and a way of performing the common family meal.

I argue that the focus on food and feeding is an important aspect of transnational family life, practiced through sending food products home, supervising family consumption online, and also sharing in the family meals through internet communicators.

panel P103
Food parcels: intimate connexions in transnational migration