The Root of Excellence: An Interpretive Approach to Understanding Elder Care within Transnational Chinese Families in Canada
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Situated at the intersection between globalization and demographic aging, this dissertation seeks to add a critical and interdisciplinary voice to the vibrant conversation on the topic of elder care. It weaves the complex conceptual threads of aging, transnational migration, and the ethics of care into a phenomenological inquiry into the lived experiences of the elderly and their adult children in the intimate space of seven transnational Chinese families in Canada. The research conceptualizes old age as a matter out of place in a neoliberal system marked by growth and productivity, and formulates a theoretical framework of sticky ambiguity as a way to reveal the tensions inherent in the discourse on elder care as a social, cultural, and intercultural phenomenon. In order to resist essentialist narratives of Chinese Canadian families, I emphasize the importance of cultural translation as a responsibility and an important means to unsettle meanings and cultural differences. An interpretive and reflexive methodology is used to analyze qualitative data in an attempt to move beyond a surface reading of the texts. In contrast to typical narrative analysis that aims to code, characterize, and thematize qualitative data, this method treats narrative as the subjects attempt to reconcile the divided self as he or she searches for a good way of representing the problem. The analysis makes observable the subjects orientation to values and idealization, and reveals the hidden struggles and conflicts that are often concealed in speech. Through three case studies on the themes of ambivalence, death, and filial piety, I try to understand how the subject orients to each phenomenon as a problem-solving situation in order to produce a dialogue about the meaning and sticky ambiguity of aging and elder care. My analysis shows that the meaning of aging and elder care is far from stable and singular. It is constructed through an evolving process of moral reasoning that is entangled in a continuous struggle with cultural identities, selfhood, gender, class, heritage, intimacy, and morality.