How easily does ‘care’ travel? Crossing boundaries at #AAGE2017

By Gina Crivello

Every time I attend an anthropology conference it feels as if I’m returning to a piece of home, having worked for the past fifteen years in the multi-disciplinary field of International Development and during which time I have been just as likely to collaborate with economists as with anthropologists. Concepts like ‘kinship’, ‘culture’, ‘affinity’ and ‘relatedness’ might slide easily off the tongue in an anthropological discussion of care, but I have learned to not take such discussions for granted.

Indeed, attending the 10th Biennial AAGE Conference on the theme of Culture, Commitment and Care across the Life Course made me reflect on the many boundaries surrounding ‘care’, including but not limited to the disciplinary ones, and the importance of being able to ‘travel’ across these boundaries in ways that are productive and promote cross-fertilisation.

It is imperative that the kind of anthropological knowledge discussed at the Conference travels effectively to inform child policy debates at all levels, and to nuance policy discussions around care, work and family life.

The conference was personally very timely since I have been thinking a lot about issues of care, along with my colleague, Patricia Espinoza, who I work with on the Young Lives study based at the University of Oxford. We have recently been engaging with both academic and policy audiences about a joint piece of work we have undertaken that uses longitudinal survey and qualitative data to explore children’s active roles as carers and unpaid workers in family contexts, across time. Some organisations that we have spoken with are intent on viewing children as dependents and assume that children can only be the recipients – and not the givers – of care.  There is a common failure to appreciate that in many societies childhood is a time for children to become responsible, not a time to be shielded from responsibilities, as many anthropological studies have shown. It is imperative that the kind of anthropological knowledge discussed at the Conference travels effectively to inform child policy debates at all levels, and to nuance policy discussions around care, work and family life.

We hope that the Young Lives Workshop held on the first day of the Conference provided some insights into how the study is using research to inform policy debates. Although Young Lives is a study of childhood poverty, our aim was to draw in participants working across the life course spectrum. We shared lessons around methodology, ethics and policy engagement, and we tried to give the four presentations that made up the session a ‘care’ spin.

Jo Boyden, Young Lives Director, kicked off the session on the topic of ‘Understanding care from an intergenerational life course perspective – research design and challenges’. Patricia Espinoza-Revollo followed with a talk on ‘Researching care with longitudinal mixed methods’. I focused my talk on ‘The ethics of longitudinal research’, and Frances Winter concluded the Workshop with lessons about ‘Using Young Lives research to inform policy’.

Ultimately, this could be an effective platform for promoting professional collaborations that cross life course boundaries

We were so pleased with the audience turn-out and participation but wish there had been more time to understand what motivated individual participants to attend the Workshop and to draw out connections between our diverse research interests, challenges and contexts. A copy of the presentation can be found here.

It’s fabulous to learn that one of the outcomes of the AAGE Conference is a proposal for a new research network of the European Association of Social Anthropology.  A new network will be an important space for continuing the conversations that began at the Conference, in ways that build bridges (not ‘walls’!) across the various boundaries that often define our professional lives and ways of thinking and working. Ultimately, this could be an effective platform for promoting professional collaborations that cross life course boundaries – put bluntly, more discussions between the ‘childhood people’ and the ‘ageing people’ within Anthropology – which is exactly what the AAGE Conference set out to do.

Read posts about #AAGE2017 Conference here

About Gina Crivello

Gina Crivello is a Senior Research Officer, having joined Young Lives in 2006 after completing her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California. Leading the theme on Gender, Adolescence and Youth, her current research explores the dynamics of gender inequality in the second decade of life and in transitions to adulthood. Gina leads on the qualitative research within Young Lives, including a longitudinal component tracking 200 children in four countries across a seven-year period, and on developing methods and ethical approaches for engaging multiple generations in policy-relevant social research. Gina’s ongoing research interests include aspirations; migration and mobility; paid and unpaid work; ethics of care; youth transitions; intergenerational relations; and methods and ethics in qualitative longitudinal research.  Countries she has worked in include Ethiopia, India, Morocco, Peru, Spain and Vietnam. Contact her at gina.crivello@qeh.ox.ac.uk

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