'Looking after granny': a transnational ethic of care and responsibility

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Recent writing in geography has focused on the ways in which we can think and act responsibly in relation to place as well as ‘distant others’. Others have argued for a more ambiguous stance towards responsibility. In most of this literature, however, responsibility is seen as flowing from the centre to the periphery. In this paper I argue that we should also be paying attention to the spaces where responsibility flows in the opposite direction. Using the example of Bolivian elderly care workers in Spain, this paper shows that many elderly care workers are practising a transnational ethic of care that goes beyond the remit of their marketised responsibilities. Many elderly care workers place their ‘grannies’ into the realm of familial social relations and express feelings of responsibility towards them. This allows them to accept or at least bear their demanding and often demeaning work. However, this same process contributes to them staying in often exploitative working conditions while denying responsibilities of care to their own families and to themselves. The paper argues that shifting our attention to how responsibilities and care are practised in transnational social fields, allows for the recognition of the many benefits that richer countries continue to draw from the migration of people from the Global South and contributes to the construction of less Eurocentric perspectives on care and responsibility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-129
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • responsibility; elderly care; transnationalism; Bolivia; Spain

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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