The notion of ‘transnational families’ emerged at the beginning of the 21st century to designate in particular “families that live some or most of the time separated from each other, yet hold together and create something that can be seen as a feeling of collective welfare and unity, namely ‘familyhood’, even across national borders” (Bryceson and Vuorela, 2002: 18). Because of geographical distance, the maintenance of collective welfare and unity in transnational families largely relies on the ability of transnational family members to participate in the circulation of care across distance and national borders, an ability that represents a key feature of migrant wellbeing. The concept of care is indeed strongly related to issues surrounding welfare and wellbeing, both at an individual and collective level. As Daly (2011) points out, care relates not only to the servicing of the needs of those who cannot take care of themselves as well as those who are able-bodied, it also emphasises in a broader sense the relational foundations of all social life. In other words, ‘key elements of people’s welfare inhere in their relations with others and the reciprocity around responses to need and the receipt of recognition and value for who people are’ (Daly, 2011: 47-48). In this chapter, we define the circulation of care in transnational families as a ‘capability’ (Sen, 1987), and discuss how the ability to participate in care exchanges impacts on the well-being of transnational family members – in terms of the provision of their care needs, of reciprocal care obligations and practices, and of identity recognition. This also leads us to examine the ways in which new communication technologies transform the ways in which caring relationships are experienced and practiced, and to highlight how policy mediates families’ capabilities to care across distance.
Baldassar, Loretta ; Kilkey, Majella ; Merla, Laura ; Wilding, Raelene. Transnational families, care and wellbeing. In: Felicity Thomas, Handbook of Migration and Health, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2016, 477-497.