The Century-Long Italian-Australian Migrant Case
DERc presents visiting guest lecturer, Professor Loretta Baldassar
There is a growing body of research on the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in transnational family life. While much of this literature examines the challenges of distance and the negative impact that the absence of kin has on family relationships, there is also a tendency to assume (or assert) that ICTs nevertheless have revolutionized our capacity to care across distance and are transforming forms of caring in the process. My own contributions focus on transnational aged care and propose that this polymedia environment is facilitating caregiving through the creation of new forms of “being there” or copresence across distance (Baldassar 2016). However, with some important exceptions (e.g., Madianou and Miller 2012), few publications, my own included, provide detailed evidence of how the changes in communication technologies have transformed the ability of transnational families to be copresent and to care across distance. In this presentation, I attempt to chart these changes and transformations over time, using the century-long history of Italian migration to Australia. I compare and contrast the forms of caregiving, kin work, and copresence experienced by four cohorts of Italian migrants in relation to specific time periods. These time periods are characterized by distinct and diverse access to various communication technologies that facilitate different methods, modes, and meanings of distant care. Drawing on fine-grained ethnographic longitudinal research on the transnational family relationships of several migrant families, I examine how communication technologies are used to deliver a sense of co-presence or “being there” for migrants and their aging parents across distance. These practices and processes of co-presence across distance are forms of caregiving and kin-work that deliver the emotional and moral support that is constitutive of family relationships. Patterns of transnational caregiving in the past were asynchronous, formulaic and ritualised but also often successfully delivered a sense of imagined co-presence or “being together”. In contrast, patters of caregiving today can be experienced as immediate real-time expressions that more closely reflect the experience of actual co-presence. I argue that polymedia environments provide the conditions that are transforming the practices and processes of caring, kin-work and co-presence across distance.
Loretta Baldassar is a Professor in the Discipline Group of Anthropology and Sociology at The University of Western Australia and Adjunct Principal Research Fellow, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University. Loretta has published extensively on transnational mobility, with a focus on families, ageing and caregiving, as well as the second generation and international students. Her most recent books include, Transnational Families, Migration and the Circulation of Care: understanding mobility and absence in family life (with Merla, Routledge, 2014) and Chinese Migration to Europe: Prato, Italy and Beyond(with Johanson, McAuliffe & Bressan, Palgrave, 2015). She is a leading authority on Italian migration to Australia, and has written widely in this area including the award winning book, Visits Home (MUP 2001); From Paesani to Global Italians(with Pesman, UWAP 2005) and Intimacy and Italian Migration(with Gabaccia, Fordham Uni Press, 2011). Loretta is a Board Member of the ISA Migration Research Committee and Oceania regional editor for the journal Global Networks. She leads two current Australian Research Council funded Discover Projects: Ageing and New Media(with Raelene Wilding, La Trobe) and Mobile Transitions: Understanding the Effects of Transnational Mobility on Youth Transitions(with Anita Harris, Deakin & Shanthi Robertson, WSU), as well as a UWA student project on Internationalisation at Home(with Lara McKenzie, UWA).