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An Ethnography of Care Work Across Borders 

Foreign Intimacy.

Routledge, 2023. 

About the book – Editor’s description

This ground-breaking ethnography illuminates the theory and practice of ageing in place by examining the relationships between migrant live-in care workers of older people in Israel, and their local employers and family members. 

Daniella Arieli begins her investigation with a discussion of her own experiences of employing a care worker from overseas for her mother and sets this book in its interdisciplinary context, while looking at how best to promote the health and wellbeing of both family members and carers. The two central sections of the book focus on narratives of care workers and family members, respectively, with topics such as trust and suspicion, intimacy and abuse, ambivalence and ambiguity, transnational familial relationships, personal transformations and cultural differences discussed. 

This book is an invaluable contribution to the literature on ageing and family relations, transnational care work and the movement of healthcare practitioners around the world. It is of interest to advanced students and students and scholars in the fields of nursing, anthropology, sociology, social work, geography, and gerontology. 

Commentary written by Prof. Haim Hazan

Foreign intimacy, an apparently paradoxical phrase, spells an emotional mood and behavioral mode that sprout in the breeding ground of the warm yet strifeful scene set in the arena of in-home care giving for frail older people. 

With a finely tuned ethnographic ear the book listens out to the myriad of voices reverberating the soundboard of the domestic interaction between the Indian or Filipino carer, the Israeli decrepit older adults, their families and friends as well as the various agencies and institutions involved in that transaction of trading workforce of an illusion of tender love. The safety of the home, therefore, is turned into a crossroad of mobilizing global human capital, of erecting bureaucratic fences, of providing for late life exigencies and of juggling kin and kith networks.  This contact zone where divergent cultural tracks are spanned and life stories and background histories meet, becomes a hothouse for emergent putative filial commitments alongside for resourcefulness and divisiveness, of genuine fondness interwoven into with facades of concern. 

At death gate, the inexorably dependent older people no longer indulge in life review and reminiscing. Instead, they spare their remaining means to safeguard their immediate survival. Like the strategies taken by their uprooted carers whose diurnal bed and body chores also bound them to the here and now the cared for are marooned in the present continuous with no clear and secure future in sight. Exiled to a shared place of alienation, both carers and cared for are engaged in a forced communal embrace of lived-in experience of disaffection. 

It is from this standpoint that Daniella Arieli sensitively and compassionately guides her reader through the life journeys of the book's protagonists as they reach the joint state of being tethered together by the chimerical bond of foreign intimacy.

Haim Hazan, Professor of Social Anthropology, Tel Aviv University. 


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Introductions: What Is This Book About 

Section 1: Introductions

01a.  The Context of this Book

01b. How it all Began: Searching for a Care Worker for Mum

Section 2: Care Workers

02a. Emily’s Miracle: The Hope for a Better Life

02b. Narashtra’s Secrets: Plans and Unexpected Changes

02c. Toma’s Journey to the Holy Land: Care Migration and Pilgrimage

02d. Linda’s Tears: On Humiliation and Abuse

02e. Marsha: Choices and the Lack of Choices

02f. Lucy, Lisa and the Limitations of Freedom: Autonomy, Morality, and Control

02g. Luna and Cindy: Living on the Edges of the Law

02h. Davis’s Victory: Working Outside

Section 3: Family Members

03a. Dubi and the Fight with Bureaucracy: The Overly-Successful Arrangement

03b. Eden’s Dilemmas: Morality and Dual Obligations

03c Ella, Anna, and Ilana: On Expectations, Disappointments, and Vulnerability

03d. The Dispute between Eric and Lihi: One Family, Different Voices

03e. Helena’s Insomnia: Cold Interests, Guilty Feelings, and Tough Regulations

03f. Rachel Blows Up: Living on the Edge of Sanity

Section 4: Transnational Intimacies

04a Rocky’s Wedding: An Essay about Co-presence

Section 5: Two Ending Chapters  

05a. Writing about Vulnerable Matters: Anthropological Journey at Home 

05b Conclusions: A Journey towards Empathy 

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