Thematic Panel 17: The changing meaning of informal care

Barbara Da Roit, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

The balance between public and private care responsibilities in the provision and funding of care for older people is high in the political agenda across Western countries. A long-standing debate exists on the effects of the expansion of formal care on the provision of informal care. More recently, policy makers attempted to “refamilialize” care or to reinforce informal care, while research has started to look at the effects of such policies.
Notwithstanding differences in cross-country policy trajectories, we can detect a number of shared assumptions in these debates: (a) care is seen as a fixed/given set of responsibilities and tasks that can be allocated to different actors; (b) family and community care belong to a common past of Western societies; (c) the welfare state, when able to provide universally accessible care services, reduced or changed the role of family care; (c) family care in weaker welfare states is endangered by socio-demographic developments and is turning to an unprecedented crisis that reverses its traditional strength.
Yet, our knowledge of the extent, nature and forms of informal care and its relationship with formal and market care is more based on comparative research than on historical accounts. Little is known of the practices and experiences of informal caregiving in the past.
This thematic panel welcomes papers with a socio-historical approach to the study of informal care (and of the relationship to other forms of care). It focuses on changes in (elder)care practices, visions, understanding, framing in relation to economic, political, demographic and technological change.
Relevant papers tackle:

  • The changing organization of informal care and its relationship to formal care provision
    The changing visions of care by formal care professions and professionals
    The changing narratives of informal care and intergenerational support by caregivers and people cared
    The changing media accounts and representations of informal care and intergenerational support
    The changing representations of care in the arts

Research should preferably consider eldercare, but contributions on intergenerational relations and care at large will be considered.
The historical time(s) taken into account may vary according to the specific research question/hypothesis and the social, political, economic development of the context considered.
Cross-disciplinary approaches (history, sociology, literature, art and media studies) are welcome. Historical accounts of western and non-western contexts are of interest for the thematic panel.

Posted in Conference 2021, Thematic Panels.