Accepted Paper:

Care migration and community: (re)imagining the East-West divide in rural Romania  


Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna IAS Paris)

Paper short abstract:

Based on data from two Romanian villages, this paper explores constructions of self/other and institutional care against the backdrop of out-migration. I illustrate the struggle involved in coming to terms with these developments as well as the importance of such imaginaries for community building.

Paper long abstract:

"You are doing it the right way: you care for your old people at home" was one of the first sentences I heard upon returning to a village in the North-West of Romania ten years after my initial fieldwork. Whereas back then the prevailing assumption had been that the elderly in the West were "given away" by their families, ten years later this image has been turned on its head: the elderly were supposedly being given away in Romania, while those in the West aspired to keep them at home. The us/them dichotomy seemed to have profoundly changed.

Although with society aging care migration has progressively entered both public and academic debates, the starting point is either Western countries with an attested care crisis or the life and work conditions of migrant workers. How constructions of self/other and community are adapted in light of care migration and how they feed into processes of belonging in the so-called sending countries is less researched. Therefore in this paper, I concentrate on the efforts to make sense of what is happening, showing how care becomes important for more general processes of the (re)production of communities. Secondly, I seek to show how these representations are connected to the shifting visions of institutional care in various forms. Both representational layers are interwoven into scientific and popular discourses on the presumed dilution of family values, as well as on what constitutes "good" care.

Panel Mig003
Imaginaries of migration: identity and belonging