Too sick to move: distant ‘crisis’ care in transnational families

Loretta Baldassar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the crisis of acute and chronic illness, death, and dying in transnational families. These are the stages in the family life-course when physical co-presence is required to deliver hands-on care and intimate emotional support for the sick family member. It is a time when distant kin feel they need ‘to be there’, including for their own sense of well-being. This period of ‘crisis’ (in the anthropological sense) makes visible all of the impediments to transnational family caregiving that often remain hidden during those periods when ‘routine’ forms of distant care are adequate. Of particular relevance are the macro-level factors generated by national borders and the policies that define them, including those that govern employment, travel, visa, health, and aged care provisions. It is in these family life phases of crisis that nation-state structures can work to constrain individual agency and rights, making compellingly evident the growing need for transnational structures and policy. At issue are the largely invisible (in a policy sense) but increasingly common micro-level responses of family and individuals that characterize ‘crisis distant care’, which are characterized by the urgent need to visit and to intensify use of ICTs. The paper examines the experiences of migrants living in Australia who are trying to care for acutely unwell family members abroad.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-405
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Review of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • transnational care
  • transnational families
  • transnational migration
  • transnational policy

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