In today’s globalized world human practices of  caring, parenting and generation are increasingly taking place in transnational social spaces. Migrants engage in parenting despite prolonged periods abroad while sending economic remittances to family members and even close friends. In addition they are often expected to contribute to local community development through financial investments or in other ways taking responsibility for the community’s welfare and development. When retirees or the independently wealthy from developed countries settle permanently or seasonally abroad, an inverse care deficit or a new economy of care emerges to cater to those in need of care and medical support. Through Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and faster economic remittance systems, social networks and families have moved into a transnational social space where they also become reorganized as social units.

Social responsibility at a distance will be organized around a series of panels that turn the spotlight on how self-imposed or assigned responsibilities are altered in the context of transnational migration or mobility, particularly in relation to different types of role divisions, such as parenthood or other close kinship social relationships within networks or local communities. The Roundtable will discuss, from an anthropological perspective, how different forms and practices of social responsibility are developed and reproduced. We have organized the discussion about these research questions into three panels:

  1. Long Distance Caring

  2. Transnational Retirees and Changing Forms of Care

  3. Techno Parents and Cyberkids

The first panel will mainly focus on the changing roles and practices in transnational families, for example, how parenthood, childhood and intimacy are shaped by transnationalization. The second panel will focus mainly on care and other kind of social services in situations when older people migrate or approach old age away from conventional services and practices of caring. Both panels will have an interest in the way diasporas are assuming responsibility by developing collective practices or services for migrants. Finally, the third panel will discuss the use of ICT practices in the context of responsibility in transnational social spaces. How do people use new technologies when practicing their social responsibilities and what impact do these have on people’s everyday life?

The Stockholm Anthropology Roundtable is devoted to short interventions by a dozen presenters who will give a short talk or statement which links to the panel’s research topic. In conversation with the other presentations the researcher’s statement should serve as an input for intense and fruitful discussions with the audience with the expressed intention of expanding the knowledge of the field while inspiring future research.

Invited speakers and discussants:

  • Alistair Hunter
  • Anna Gavanas
  • Karen O’Reilly
  • Caroline Oliver
  • Elizabeth Frantz
  • Karen Fog Olwig
  • Karsten Paerregaard
  • Gladis Aguirre Vidal
  • Deirdre McKay
  • Jason Cabanes
  • Mihaela Nedelcu
  • Rebecca King O´Riain
  • Mark Johnson
  • Gunilla Bjerén
  • Sandra Torres


October 24

12:00-12:15 Introduction and Welcome

Panel 1: Long Distance Caring

Karen Fog Olwig, Karsten Paerregaard, Gladis Aguirre Vidal, Elizabeth Frantz
Chair: Annika Rabo
Comments by: Gunilla Bjerén

14:45-15:15 Break

Panel 2: Transnational Retirees and Changing Forms of Care

Karen O’Reilly, Anna Gavanas, Alistair Hunter, Caroline Oliver
Chair: Erik Olsson
Comments by: Sandra Torres

20:00 Dinner

October 25

Panel 3: Techno Parents and Cyberkids

Deirdre McKay, Jason Cabañes, Mihaela Nedelcu, Rebecca King O´Riain
Chair: Johan Lindquist
Comments by: Mark Johnson

11:30-12:00 Break

12:00-13:00 Concluding Discussion


Panel 1: Long Distance Caring

Karen Fog Olwig, Professor
Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen

(Re)negotiating family life in actual places and virtual spaces

In many areas of the world, contemporary transnational relations of care, parenthood and generation represent a continuation of long-distance practices of social responsibility developed in communities with well-established migration traditions. However, while the physical distance between relatives formerly left considerable space for the (re)negotiation of family relations, today intimate family relations often are played out in real time on Skype, delinked from the different social and physical conditions of existence of the various family members. This creates both new opportunities for a vibrant transnational family life and stressful situations as physically absent relatives seek to (re)create meaningful relations – “live” – in virtual reality. Thus while interaction in virtual space may enable the sustaining of close family ties across vast distances, it also entails expectations and demands that can be difficult, if not impossible, to meet in the “actual” realities of local life.

Karsten Paerregaard, Professor
School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg

Money as Care: Remitting as Kinning in Peruvian Migration

A growing body of literature examines how transnational migrants create ties of belonging across national borders. An important insight from these studies is that while transnational migration often strengthens migrants’ relations to their relatives it also challenges gender and generational relations within the household. This presentation explores the role remittances play in long distance family relations. It discusses how migrants make remittance commitments to their relatives and investigates the relations of obligation and affection encompassed in these commitments. The presentation concludes that remitting constitutes a critical means for migrants to both reaffirm and manage caring relations.

Gladis Aguirre, PhD student
Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Loving and Leaving. Distance as a global lifestyle in Ecuadorian migration to Spain

This presentation is about the relationship between migrant mothers and their children left behind. I am specifically interested in how people manage their separation through showing some feelings and hiding others while waiting for their reunion. The construction of a common lifestyle over geographical distance raises at least two important questions: Which tensions might exist between different family models? What is problematic with established categorizations such as care-givers and care-receivers?

Elizabeth Frantz, PhD
International Migration Initiative, Open Society Foundation

Sri Lanka’s Migrant Mothers: Love, Sacrifice and Separation

The journey Sri Lankan women make to work overseas is often as fraught with change and challenge as the paths they chart within their own families. In Sri Lanka migrant mothers take the blame for a range of social problems said to afflict their families in their absence, from juvenile delinquency to incest and alcoholism. Although frequently accused of abandoning their families, many migrants view migration as an extension of their roles as mothers, not an escape from it. Drawing on ethnographic research with Sri Lankan women in Jordan and their families in Sri Lanka, this paper explores how migrants negotiate the tensions and contradictions arising in the context of mothering from a distance. It looks at the role of remittances, including gift remitting, in their struggles to maintain familial duties and poses more general questions about how kinship is being shaped by transnational migration. 

Panel 2: Transnational Retirees and Changing Forms of Care

Karen O’Reilly, Professor
Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University

Care concerns for lifestyle migrants in Thailand and Malaysia

Relatively affluent, and often older age, lifestyle migrants have been settling in increasing numbers in places such as Mexico, Panama, Thailand, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Egypt. This paper arises from qualitative research with lifestyle migrants in Malaysia and Thailand, and examines the diverse ways in which they are thinking about, planning, and organising their longer-term care needs. The sharing of transnational spaces and meeting of different cultures creates surprises and creativity in terms of problems and solutions, and also raises complex issues around individualism, exploitation and global inequalities.

Anna Gavanas, Associate Professor
Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society, Linköping University

Swedish retiree migrants and service providers in Spain: future forms of social responsibility?

In the current neoliberal era, privatization and internationalization are of crucial importance to conditions for elderly care in Europe. There is a wide range of conditions for mobility among Swedish international retiree migrants (IRMs) in Spain, but also among the (Spanish and migrant) providers of their care and services. The majority of IRMs rely on family and social networks and return to Sweden when they (or their partner) become dependent on elderly care. However, those IRMs who stay in Spain beyond the 4th age are left with a patchwork of informal and formal, unpaid as well as privately funded (and provided), solutions for elderly care. Which new forms of social responsibility are emerging in IRM zones and what are the conditions for mobility and ageing for different actors involved?

Alistair Hunter, PhD
School of International Relations, University of St Andrews

'Geographically single' older migrants navigating between 'emotional home' and 'instrumental home'

The retired residents of France's migrant worker hostel system are 'geographically single' men, continuing to financially support spouses and younger generations in North and West Africa yet residing principally in France in order to maintain access to trusted formal care providers and social security entitlements. The men's presence in France is largely 'timetabled' by care needs and requirements of inclusion in France's social security system. To describe these different obligations to formal and familial care actors, a distinction is proposed between 'instrumental home', namely France, and 'emotional' home in places of origin.

Caroline Oliver, Senior Researcher
COMPAS, School of Anthropology, University of Oxford

‘Birds of a feather’: International Retirement Migration and new care futures

The trend of Northern Europeans retiring to Spain demonstrates a choice for a new desired form of ageing, independence and, for some, a desire to escape ‘burdening’ children with care responsibilities. The presentation, based on research spanning 15 years, ponders the impacts of those philosophies on negotiations of care, welfare and responsibility in transnational social spaces. It explores a range of strategies for care in operation by transnational retirement migrants and explores the consequences of the development of new ageing communities of those ‘most like us’, especially for the possibilities and challenges for future care in older age.

Panel 3: Techno Parents and Cyberkids

Deirdre McKay, Senior Lecturer
School of Physical and Geographical Sciences, Keele University

Sending the children home

Polymedia (Madianou and Miller, 2013) makes possible significant changes in everyday transnational lives. Platforms such as Skype and Facebook facilitate the spatial recomposition of previously co-resident nuclear family relations, but in reverse. Rather than leaving children behind, my Filipino respondents in London form families, then send their children home. Their children live in much more comfortable and secure surroundings in the Philippines, but experience digital parenting as part of a global, extended-family approach to childraising, opening up a new series of mediated responsibilities and norms for family life.

Jason Vincent A. Cabañes, PhD
School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds

Mediating love in the migrant context: The role of the polymedia in how Indian parents and children in Manila negotiate the meaning of intimate relationships

In this talk, I present my preliminary insights about how the polymedia matter in the intimate relationships of the twenty-something Punjabi Indian migrants living in the Philippine capital of Manila. Drawing on my life story interviews with and observations of these young Indians, I characterise their use of various ICTs in their attempts to manage the difficult task of simultaneously acquiescing to their parents’ belief in a traditional Punjabi arranged marriage and experimenting with their local peers’ ideas about Manila-style romance. On the basis of this, I contend that the affordances that ICTs can offer these young migrants’ intimate relationships is heavily entwined with the degree to which they are embedded in their family’s Indian social network, on the one hand, vis-a-vis their peers' Filipino social network, on the other hand.

Mihaela Nedelcu, Associate Professor
Institute of Sociology, University of Neuchâtel

Transnational family practices in the digital age: ordinary co-presence routines, family solidarities and ‘intergenerational ambivalence’

This presentation accounts for the emergence of a new form of “doing family” in transnational social spaces through ICT-mediated practices, based on the case of Romanian migrants in Switzerland and Canada. More specifically, I use the concept of ordinary co-presence to describe the ability of dispersed family members to rely on multiple media affordances in order to re-create a space for “family practices.” Although regular and intense multimodal interactions are the drivers of new forms and feelings of togetherness—and caring at a distance, more generally—ordinary co-presence routines also generate ambivalent effects as the benefits of intergenerational solidarities are in conflict with the continuous pressure to communicate, which in turn threatens the individualistic orientations of many migrants.

Rebecca King-O’Riain, Senior Lecturer
Department of Sociology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Emotional Streaming and Transconnectivity: Skype and Emotion Practices in Transnational Families in Ireland

This presentation examines how children living in mixed transnational families use Skype to create and maintain emotional connections with family members across great distances. Children used Skype creatively and very differently from their parents and other adults. While they tired easily of sitting in a ‘headshot’, they were far more active and likely to just keep Skype turned on for long periods of time. I call this an example of ‘emotional streaming,’ which seems to help to maintain strong emotional connections with family members over great distances. The presentation raises a series of questions: For children, how does using visual technology (webcams, facetime etc.) differ from using text based (texting, emailing, etc.) technologies to communicate? How do the different ‘polymedia’ shape emotions within social interaction for children? How do children experience space, place and belonging from within mixed transnational families via Skype?


The Department of Social Anthropology
Erik Olsson, Johan Lindquist, Annika Rabo

Note that due to space restrictions, there is limited seating space available. Therefore seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Unfortunately all seats have already been filled.