JOPOL 7(2022)

Power Relations and Identity Construction in Intercultural Care Encounters in a Residential Home for Older People in Sweden
Gunilla Jansson 

The present article examines how an older person, a late-in-life migrant woman from Iran, and two migrant care workers negotiate their power positions relative to each other. The data are drawn from ethnographic research combined with detailed analyses (conversation analysis and membership organization) of audio- and video recordings of morning care sessions in a residential home for older people in Sweden. The aim of the article is to demonstrate (i) how power hierarchies in the care institutional environment and in the historical context are evoked and challenged in the care encounter (ii) how identity categories and characterizing descriptions associated with language, ethnicity, race and social class are mobilized as part of this process. I analyse four excerpts containing narratives told by the resident. Within this article, I show (i) how the resident invokes narratives from her pre-migration life in Iran to portray an upper-class identity; (ii) how she discloses talk about her suffering in the care facility (iii) how the care workers collaborate to restore social order in the institutional hierarchy, for instance by invoking their institutional identities as caring service providers and using a jovial discourse. Finally, I discuss the implications of these findings for care work and for future research, arguing that a care facility is a cultural arena that plays a part in the general reproduction of cultural identities in our contemporary globalized, social world.

Keywords: conversation analysis, care encounter, identity construction, membership categorization analysis, power relations