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Accepted Paper:

ICTs and everyday care practices in Indian transnational families   
Tanja Ahlin (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This papers challenges the discourse of elderly abandonment by proposing that in Indian transnational families of nurses 1) migration may be seen as an act of care rather than abandonment, and 2) information and communication technologies enable care relations to sustain across large geographic distances.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents some of my findings about the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in informal elderly care at a distance in Indian transnational families. During my fieldwork in the South Indian state of Kerala I realized that there was a tension between the popular image of elderly being 'abandoned' by their migrating children and the way in which some elderly living alone experienced living far away from their children. In this presentation, I (1) challenge the discourse of elderly abandonment due to migration and, (2) illuminate how everyday ICTs support caring across distance. I approach 'care' as a relational practice rather than a feeling or emotion, and 'care relations' as family relations. I start with a discussion of migration as an act of abandonment or care. I draw on my ethnographic material to show that physical presence of children may not automatically signify good elderly care, and further, that migration in itself can be understood as a form of care. I then explore how care continues to circulate in Keralite transnational families by means of ICTs. By bringing attention to everyday ICTs in informal elderly care, I suggest that they not only "have the potential to redefine our ideas about embodiment and the corporeal dimensions of social relationships" (Merla and Baldassar 2014: 52), but play already play a key role in this process.


Baldassar, L., and L. Merla (2014). Transnational Families, Migration and the Circulation of Care: Understanding Mobility and Absence in Family Life. New York: Routledge.

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