Alessandro Pratesi

Ain’t I family? Long-distance acts of family and social change

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: long-distance families, acts of family, emotional dynamics, reflexivity, social change.

How do LAT couples and families differ from conventional definitions of the family in terms of daily practices and strategies? What can we learn from their everyday experiences and acts of family? What do these couples and families share with other forms of distance relationships? Investigating the performative aspects of family practices in a global perspective involves shifting the focus to those acts of family which ongoingly emerge in different contexts and for different reasons and which possess important political implications. Since its early theorisations, there has been a number of studies on LAT couples, focused on their incidence, their characteristics, their motives, their habits, their emotional and financial costs, their developments as a couple, etc. Quite often, these studies concern LAT couples living apart in the same country or city. Still lacking, though, are phenomenological accounts of long-term, long-distance relationships, that is, accounts on the lived experience of long-term LAT couples and families, on the multiple meanings and implications of living apart together in terms of daily, performative family acts when the geographical distance does not allow frequent or regular encounters. Drawing on a number of case studies of long-term, long-distance couples and families, this article addresses the above-mentioned questions and provides a phenomenological picture of unconventional family practices as well as a potential theoretical framework through which the multiple meanings and implications of LAT experiences may (or may not) find a common denominator. Understanding the lived experience of long-term, long-distance couples and families can advance our peripheries of knowledge production on the changing nature of family relationships and provide some useful insights in the enduring gaps, absences and invisibilities in family policies. Shedding light on these gaps can help us to address them in terms of broader issues which are relevant for several other invisible families.

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