Annotation: Brijnath, Bianca. 2009. Familial Bonds and Boarding Passes

Brijnath, Bianca. 2009. Familial Bonds and Boarding Passes: Understanding Caregiving in a Transnational Context. Identities, 16(1):83-101.

The author writes that there are multiple narratives embedded in the lives that are lived transnationally, and she asks: “whose story do we focus on?.” She admits that she opted to omit certain poignant stories from this article, as they are “not hers to tell.” Traditional caregiving, she writes, is made complex by transnational family relations, varying accesses to mobility, gender, generation gaps, etc. The author writes as an anthropologist who is a native of India, but who also holds Australian citizenship. Her grandmother, who suffers from dementia, is an Indian national who resides in the US, and thus does not have full access to health care. The grandmother lives with Aunt Kriti, an accomplished artist who is a US citizen. Marites, the caregiver of her grandmother for 14 years, is a Filipina. The author describes this situation as illustrative of Arlie Hochschild’s “global care chain,” in which women from poorer communities around the globe supply care to more affluent families. The author uses Nicole Yeates’ and Loretta Baldassar’s study on transnational families and their caregiving relations, to discuss the connections of care found in her own family, which span four geographical areas. To explain the complexity of this gendered transnational caregiving practice, Brijnath looks into the strengths of “real” and “fictive” kinship, with both types contributing to the “crisis support narrative.” The caregiving chain is disrupted when Marites suffers an aneurism, which then places Aunt Kriti in charge of caring for both Marites and the grandmother. The author is called in for two weeks to care for the grandmother. Placing the grandmother in a care home is not an option as it would be tantamount to abandoning her, and to defying their “Indian-ness” (i.e. care for the elderly perceived as a major responsibility). Brijnath argues than in such a transnational setting, care for both fictive and real kin is connected to emotional labor, and is subject to constant negotation and reciprocity.

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