Mobilising care Ecuadorian families and transnational lives between Ecuador and Spain

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Abstract: This thesis focuses on the dynamics of care in the transnational lives of Ecuadorian migrant women in Spain. It is concerned with the various forms of care that take shape and are sustained in the workplace, between friends, and among family members in Ecuador and Spain. Ultimately, it sheds light on how care is mobilised to sustain ideals of solidarity at work as well as togetherness in transnational life. The thesis is set against the background of the economic and political crisis in Ecuador of the late 1990s and early 2000s, which resulted not only in the dollarization of the economy and the removal of the country’s president, but in a dramatic shift of traditional male migration from the southern highlands to the United States, to a new wave of largely middle class female migration to Western Europe, especially Spain. Women from across the country left their children, spouses and elderly parents behind to work in domestic and care jobs abroad. In Ecuador, this disturbed the dominant cultural imaginary of the co-habitating and united family, centred on the presence of the woman as mother and wife. In light of this, the thesis engages with women’s dilemmas in giving and receiving care during years of absence, the role of family members, friends and domestic workers in this process, and the development of long-term goals focused on remittances, reunification, return, and the ultimate goal of creating a better future. Most generally, while challenging a series of dichotomies between love and money, home and work, gift and commodity—which have structured academic discussions concerning the feminization of international migration—the thesis describes the intimate relationship between women’s participation in the gift economy and a global labour market through the lens of care relationships.

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