Gladis Aguirre Vidal, Doktorand, Socialantropologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet

Mobilizing Care. Ecuadorian families and transnational lives between Ecuador and Spain

Following the financial and political crisis of the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians—mostly women from all social classes—migrated to Spain. This thesis focuses on the effects of these transformations on Ecuadorian families, and particularly on relations of care. Care entails the concrete actions involved in emotional and physical attentiveness, but has also increasingly become a commodity provided from caregivers to care receivers. The ‘mobility of care’ suggests the need for care to be reconceptualised as dynamic, constituted in its movement in multiple directions binding people together across space. To understand how care takes shape through mobility, this thesis pays attention to its materiality and its capacity to travel, to produce and transform social life, reproducing solidarity as well subordination. A deep commitment of support (compromisos), great portions of attentiveness (atenciones), and even ideals of sacrifice (sacrificios) for the sake of the family become crucial to sustain bonds over time and distance. As such, more than a commodity, mobile care should be understood as a world of social connections in which people actively engage through the ongoing circulation of money, favours and gifts or by putting oneself in the service of absent others, which in turn creates intimacy and mutual indebtedness. When the state system of social protection and welfare is non-existent or too weak to satisfy peoples’ basic needs, the possibility to mobilize care through moral principles is often the only way to make ends meet for individuals. This study follows mainly women, men and children, and their various ways of speaking, thinking and feeling in a process in which they re-accommodate their routines and their sayings to sustain the fragile balance of transnational daily life. It highlights different forms of mutual collaboration and global inequality, and responds to the question of how care is being reconfigured in the context of transnational migration. This study is based on fieldwork over extended periods in Barcelona and Ecuador in 2007-2008, shorter visits in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and follow-up discussions with respondents by phone and emails in more recent years.

Granskare: Charlotta Widmark, universitetslektor, Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi, Uppsala universitet.

NB seminar will be held in Swedish.