Caring for ageing migrants in nursing homes: 'doing diversity' while 'doing death'

Soom, Eva; Rauber, Gabriela; Salis Gross, Corina (August 2013). Caring for ageing migrants in nursing homes: 'doing diversity' while 'doing death' (Unpublished). In: IMISCOE Annual Conference 2013, "Crisis and Migration - Perceptions, Challenges and Consequences". Malmö. 26. - 27.08.2013.

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The proposed paper will present first results of a research project investigating how nursing homes in Switzerland deal with migrant elders who are in intensive need of care. Focusing on the end-of-life in institutional care settings, the intention is to explore the dimensions of ‘doing death’ in Swiss nursing homes when the elderly involved are of migrant background. The focus is laid on the co-construction of end of life in interactions between residents of migrant background and professional carers involved (often of migrant background themselves), and will thereby focus on processes of ‘doing diversity’ while ‘doing death’.

To do so, we chose an ethnographic approach focusing on the participant observation of everyday practices of ‘doing death’ and ‘death work’ and on interviewing staff, residents and their relatives. Caring for ageing migrants at the end of their lives is studied in different types of assisted living at the end of life: The field of research was entered by studying a group specific department for residents of so-called ‘Mediterranean’ background. It was contrasted by a department stressing the individuality of each resident but including a considerable number of residents with migrant background.

We are interested in how (and if at all) specific forms of ‘doing community’ within different types of departments may also lead to specific ways of ‘doing death’, which aim at a stronger embeddedness of dying trajectories in social relations of reciprocity and exchange. Furthermore, migrant ‘doing death’ is expected to be particularly negotiable since the potential diversities of symbolic reference systems and daily practices are widened. If the respective resident is limited in his/her capacities to play an active part in negotiating about ‘good care’ and ‘good dying’ – either due to language competences, which would be migrant specific, or due to degenerative diseases, which is not migrant specific – the field of negotiations will be left up to the professionals within the organization (and to the relatives, which are, however, not constantly present). Strategies of stereotyping the ‘other’ as well as driving nurses, caring aides and other professionals of migrant background into roles of ‘cultural experts’ or ‘transcultural translators’ are expected to be common in such situations. However, the task of negotiating what would be a ‘good dying’ and what measures are appropriate is always at stake in contemporary heterogeneous societies. Therefore we would argue that studying dying processes involving migrant residents is looking at paradigmatic manifestations of doing death in recent contexts of reflexive modernity.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Soom, Eva; Rauber, Gabriela and Salis Gross, Corina


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Eva Soom Ammann

Date Deposited:

25 Jul 2014 11:22

Last Modified:

25 Jul 2014 11:22


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