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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/q264-9w92

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Kinship as Commodity: Migrant Daughters and Paid Caregivers in Elder Care in Southern Ghana



immigration and diasporas

kinship and families

Many Ghanaians celebrate their reliance on family in providing elder care, contrasting kin care with the discarding of older adults in institutional facilities that they envision in Western countries. Elder care becomes a way to organize cultural difference and invert global hierarchies, such that “African tradition” has a positive valence. Kin care for older adults in the late twentieth century in Ghana was particularly dependent on the labor of daughters, in part because the obligations of an extended group of kin had narrowed to the biological sons and daughters. Migrant daughters were expected to return to the hometown to care for older kin (and grandchildren) and be supported by the remittances of their male siblings and migrant children. Migrant daughters today are increasingly unhappy with this expectation and are finding a substitute by hiring a paid caregiver in the hometown or moving their mothers in to live with them, and hiring a caregiver to help. In the process, they take on the role of their brothers by caring for their parents through providing the financial support for their wellbeing, rather than providing personal care directly. In these new kinship arrangements, paid caregiving is accommodated to the ideal of kin care: both aging parents and adult children see hiring a care worker as a way of fulfilling adult children’s kinship obligations rather than an outright reversal. It reveals the ways kin relations are commodified. The reinterpretation of kinship as commodity exchanges also allows adult children to more easily disavow those obligations.


Transcript English (automatic)

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