Accepted Paper:

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


Duga Mavrinac (Institute for Anthropological research)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

Panel P013
Collaboration and intimacy in the politics of care work