Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Susan M. Roberts

Abstract

Care is socially constructed, shaped by expectations embedded within particular relationships and the culturally-specific understandings of what it means to work, love and suffer. In this dissertation, I conceptualize care as a fundamental component of everyday life in which individuals are oriented towards the needs of others. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in a rural Konkomba community in northern Ghana, I explore the geographies of care shaping the everyday experiences of women engaged in intergenerational relationships as they encounter emerging dependencies associated with ageing. Dependencies emerge when an individual requires support and care from another, and in turn the struggles for, and the provision of this support has material and emotional implications for those involved. I make three primary contributions. First, I examine the potential for a feminist ethics of care within livelihoods approaches in order to destabilize notions of independence and material outcomes, arguing that livelihood strategies are characterized by interdependencies within families and communities. Second, I contribute to an understanding of the politics of care by considering women's mobility in the face of competing demands on their labor and resources. Despite responsibilities to provide a 'good death', women experience social and material hurdles to negotiate their mobility in order to provide end of life care to a parent. Third, I explore the embodied emotional experiences of elderly women as they experience dependencies and struggle to engage in material exchange and caring relationships. As a result of these emergence of dependencies, women's everyday lives are deeply shaped by experiences of love and suffering. In northern Ghana, as in other rural agrarian communities in developing regions, the elderly population is growing and a weak formal care infrastructure is ill-prepared to face the pressures of an ageing population. Through this dissertation, I highlight the complex geographies of care shaping everyday life experiences and contribute to an understanding of the particular issues faced by communities where intergenerational relationships are key to lives lived with care.

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