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Laura Merla, Majella Kilkey, Raelene Wilding and Loretta Baldassar

In this chapter, we review the literature on transnational families, a field of study that applies a transnational lens to the exploration of family relationships in a migratory context. We discuss some of the major themes that have characterised research in this area, which is variously located at the intersection between migration, family, and digital studies. We explore these themes first by focusing on social policy, highlighting the regimes, regulations, and policies that shape the creation of, the need for, and the forms of transnational family solidarity. We then examine the new information and communication technologies that are transforming how families communicate, imagine themselves, and organise their everyday lives. We conclude by calling for new research on the immobilising effects of current restrictionist migration regimes, and for more large-scale data on the invisible labour performed by members of transnational families in order to make visible their contributions to the economies of receiving and sending societies.

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Loretta Baldassar, Majella Kilkey, Laura Merla and Raelene Wilding

As a result of the dominance of highly individualised, economistic and gendered analyses of migration and globalisation processes, family life has often been relegated to the ‘back stage’ of research on globalisation and migration. In this chapter, we examine the relationship between family, globalisation and migration through the lens of care, focusing specifically on the experiences of transnational families. We begin by examining how uneven globalisation processes produce ‘crises of care’, which migration can help alleviate. We move on to explore the transnational care strategies migrants and their kin members in the country of origin develop to maintain familyhood across borders, including when trapped in immobility. In such a context, the opportunities provided by information and communication technologies (ICTs) to maintain connections and to care across distance have become especially important. We conclude by arguing that mobility and internet access are thus key features of globalisation that require careful policy attention at both national and transnational levels.

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Loretta Baldassar, Majella Kilkey, Laura Merla and Raelene Wilding

The notion of ‘transnational families’ emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century to designate in particular ‘families that live some or most of the time separated from each other, yet hold together and create something that can be seen as a feeling of collective welfare and unity, namely “familyhood”, even across national borders’ (Bryceson and Vuorela, 2002: 18). Because of geographical distance, the maintenance of collective welfare and unity in transnational families largely relies on the ability of transnational family members to participate in the circulation of care across distance and national borders, an ability that represents a key feature of migrant wellbeing. The concept of care is indeed strongly related to issues surrounding welfare and wellbeing, both at an individual and collective level. As Daly (2011) points out, care relates not only to the servicing of the needs of those who cannot take care of themselves as well as those who are able-bodied, it also emphasises in a broader sense the relational foundations of all social life. In other words, ‘key elements of people's welfare inhere in their relations with others and the reciprocity around responses to need and the receipt of recognition and value for who people are’ (Daly, 2011: 47–48). In this chapter, we define the circulation of care in transnational families as a ‘capability’ (Sen, 1987), and discuss how the ability to participate in care exchanges impacts on the wellbeing of transnational family members – in terms of the provision of their care needs, of reciprocal care obligations and practices, and of identity recognition. This also leads us to examine the ways in which new communication technologies transform the ways in which caring relationships are experienced and practiced, and to highlight how policy mediates families’ capabilities to care across distance.