Transnational Aging Carers: On Transformation of Kinship and Citizenship in the Context of Migration among Bulgarian Muslims in Spain
This paper focuses on ‘transnational aging carers’, a group of elderly migrants who are in constant movement between social contexts, families, and states. Drawing mostly on ethnographic research with Bulgarian Muslim migrants in Spain and their extended kin in Bulgaria, the paper explores how care-triggered migration leads to two interrelated lines of transformations. First, the paper looks at the changes in gender and intergenerational kin relations. Second, the paper focuses on reconfigurations of social and economic citizenship.
The paper argues that migration disrupts care arrangements, kin expectations and family relations. These ruptures lead to a reformulation of the fabric of the family by straining and modifying gender and intergenerational relations and codes of conduct. This involves people’s understanding of family composition and family roles, of authority and masculinity, and of duty and shame, all of which are affected in multiple ways for the different actors in the care network. By considering these questions, the paper tries to understand the new models of family relations that emerge and the way these new models affect kin solidarity and reciprocity. Based on four ethnographic cases, the paper argues that transnational, care-motivated mobility affects future security based on kin reciprocity and, in this way, creates new forms of intergenerational and gender inequalities and dependencies.
These new inequalities are conditioned not only by transformed kin relations, but also by reconfigured citizenship of migrants. The transnational, aging carers experience serious disruptions in their social citizenship both in Bulgaria and in Spain. They are excluded from the state welfare support in Bulgaria by migrating to Spain in order support their children’s family reproduction. At the same time, in Spain, they are not included in any form of social security because of their auxiliary status as carers rather than regularised workers. In this way, they are twice stripped from social citizenship, both in Bulgaria and in Spain, and left at the mercy of a different kind of security, provided by kin reciprocity. The paper suggests this is a move from welfare to kinfare, from reliance on and interaction with the state, to a withdrawal from the state and dependency on the kin. Moreover, this move not only affects the present arrangements between the different generations, but also entails future insecurities.