Tania González, Doktorand, Socialantropologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet

Feelings in Motion: An ethnography of transnational migration and family relations between Bolivia and Spain

Based on a long-term multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Spain and Bolivia between 2013 and 2015, this thesis interrogates transnational family relationships, both with respect to those leaving, and to those remaining behind. More specifically, this study brings to the fore Bolivian middle-aged women who migrated to Madrid during the early 2000s and their loved ones, and it examines how family relations are maintained and negotiated over time and distance. The fulfillment of family responsibilities across large distances may challenge traditional family conceptions, and in so doing, to generate ambivalent feelings in both migrants and their relatives. Using ethnographical examples to illustrate this, the emotional side of family relations will be put in perspective through its interplay with other variables such as gender, age, family expectations, care responsibilities, and the family-life course. For instance, who is generally in charge of making up for the void of care often provoked by the migration of these middle-aged women to Spain? Who does their departure affect the most in Bolivia? Added to this, what other care needs arise at the heart of these transnational families connected with ageing and old age as a consequence of migration? And, what is the emotional toll inherent in going through certain life events –such as the death of a loved one– at a distance? These are, therefore, some of the guiding questions of this study. At the same time, however, this thesis is intended to foreground the value of emotions as a methodological tool. In this sense, it is my belief that, through our emotional reactions and bodily sensations, we can also attain valuable knowledge about the social realities we investigate. Therefore, this theses can, in a way, be seen as a practice of emotional self-reflexivity, an exercise that hopes to shed some light into our own position and responsibility as researchers who, whilst investigating, also come across spaces of intimacy. Ultimately, this thesis conveys the migration stories of ten Bolivian transnational families and, in so doing, it seeks to depict the day-to-day struggles of many other migrants and their distant relatives as they try to persevere in ‘doing’ and ‘feeling’ family in often contradictory and uneven worlds.

Granskare: Ivana Maček, docent, Socialantropologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.