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The New American ServitudePolitical Belonging among African Immigrant Home Care Workers$
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Caiti Coe

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479831012

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479831012.001.0001

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Making and Breaking Practical Kinship

Making and Breaking Practical Kinship

Affectionate Names, Social Occasions, and the End of Life

(p.130) 3 Making and Breaking Practical Kinship
The New American Servitude

Cati Coe

NYU Press

This chapter explores how some patients adopt their care workers temporarily and to a certain extent, to acknowledge the intimacy generated through care. Techniques of connection with African care workers entail what Bourdieu called practical kinship, which can easily be denied and revoked when the kin relationship is no longer needed. Major financial gifts or support are given to care workers which approximate but are not equivalent to inheritance. Both care workers and patients use kin terms like “younger brother” (said seriously) or “second wife” (said jokingly). Practical kinship is subject to the acknowledgment of others in the patients’ and care workers’ social networks, including official kin and fellow residents of the continuing care community. Death is particularly significant because it marks the end of the practical need for the care worker and because the official kin of patients can deny the kinship of the care worker to their parent.

Keywords:   gifts, inheritance, kinship, death, belonging

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