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Accepted Paper:

Responsibility, relatedness, and care in Japan's super-aged society  
Jason Danely (Oxford Brookes University)

Paper short abstract:

Providing eldercare in a super-aged society like Japan has resulted in greater fluidity of kin-based responsibilities and need for formal support. Understanding this new relatedness of care anthropologically means looking at the frictions between family and state welfare over responsibility.

Paper long abstract:

One way to understand kinship and relateness is to examine how they activate pathways for the circulation of care. In early twentieth-century, Japan, a normative kinship structure based on the "household" (ie) was promoted as a means of standardizing the family obligations to care for children and the elderly. Sociodemographic changes have made this kinship/care structure impractical for most families. And yet household based assumptions of care still underlie the logic of current state-provisioned long term care. In this system, the distribution of resources is based in part on the presence or absence of family, even if that family is unable to provide care in practice. Rather than displacing kinship as the dominant idiom of care, state-provisioned elder welfare services, and an increasingly privatised eldercare economy promote the responsibility of the household while simultaneously disempowering that household from many of the decisions involved in care. Fieldwork with both informal and formal carers revealed how this leads to friction between families seeking access to state-provisioned care and elder welfare agencies expectations of more kin-provisioned care. Kin-based care structures are also contested from within. Who takes on the care depends on availability, personality, "blood," and feelings between the carer and cared-for more than kin-based obligations. Understanding kinship in a super-aged society like Japan requires following lines of contestation and friction between family members and elder welfare services. This paper will present two case studies of blended eldercare and look at their implications for re-conceptualizing kinship and relatedness in anthropology more broadly.

Panel P040
Re-conceptualising kinship and relatedness in an ageing world [MAN]
  Session 1