Jian An Liew
National University of Singapore
After being awarded a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Geography from the National University of Singapore, Mr. Liew went on to read Masters in Global Migration at University College London. His research interests thus far have focused on the intersections between migrant mobilities, class/skills (‘middling’), race/ethnicity (‘Chinese’) and space/place in the contexts of Singapore and London. At ARI, Mr. Liew is part of the TRACE team that considers three interrelated aspects of care circulation: (1) grandparenting migration; (2) caring for the aged and the left-behind care chains of foreign carers; and (3) retirement migration. Specifically, he conducts academic field research and provides administrative support to the Singapore study site.
「 Tuning Care Relations at Home: Foreign Domestic Workers and the Elderly in Singapore 」
State efforts to combat the associated challenges of a rapidly greying population through communal and institutionalised means (e.g. building of more nursing homes and senior activity centres) have only been met with partial success as the conventional “Asian” practice of caring for one’s aged kin at home continues to hold sway for many Singaporean households. Next-generation family members who find themselves unable to meet such ideological expectations due to work or other commitments have increasingly turned to live-in migrant domestic workers to supplement or substitute their requisite eldercare responsibilities. While the degree of success to this approach varies, what is evident is a resultant transformation of the privatized home sphere, which merits negotiation from all parties plugged into this transnational moral economy. Drawing on life story interviews and participative ethnography, I examine how politics of care play out relationally between the “carer” and “cared for” (although such distinctions are not always clear-cut) on an everyday basis through the Schützian concept of intersubjective “tuning”. Tuning is a particularly instructive lens that emphasises how social relations are formulated and reworked along politico-economic, cultural and emotional/affectual lines in space and time. Owing to the drastically unequal ways foreign caregivers and local care recipients are positioned within the Singaporean society, moments of positive family-like regard are almost always preceded/superseded by forms of negativity and vice-versa. The dyad pair is therefore best understood as embroiled in a dead knot relationship that requires constant tuning as one needs care which no one else will provide while the other needs the job in order that the migration gamble succeeds.