Caring Transnationally: A Spatiotemporal Model of Moral Discourse and Action

Project: Research

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The need to understand and enact care in relation to multiple, interconnected space-times has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the forms of care used to address the virus in one context have a direct impact on the interventions required in another. To capture the ethical implications of such interdependency, this project proposes to develop a spatiotemporal model of moral discourse and action that allows for an imagination and enactment of care within a system where objects, phenomena, and relations are linked across various interconnected space-times and scale levels. This model is meant to allow individuals, institutions, and scholars to evaluate and reflect on the contexts in which they have prioritized care, and those interconnected scales and space-times they have neglected.The model will be developed by placing spatiotemporal theories of discourse and action that emerge from the PI’s field of sociolinguistics and that of moral philosophy in dialogue with one another; and by applying these theories to the ethnographic case study of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong. This interdisciplinary model will account for the role of discourse in mediating moral imaginations and the ways in which moral considerations require material action that go beyond ‘talk’. The ethnographic case study is also central to the development of this model. First, it brings empirical specificity to the theoretical claims. Second, it provides a compelling example of the possibilities of and constraints on enacting care across transnational space-times as migrant domestic workers orient to their host countries and Hong Kong in the present and historically; multilateral institutions which oversee transnational labor; and their interpersonal familial and employment relationships.Empirically, this project highlights the situation of migrant domestic workers, who make often-overlooked contributions to transnational care at multiple scales. Theoretically, this project adds to sociolinguistic theorizations about how and why people speak and act a certain way, moral considerations about how and why people should act a certain way in relation to time and space - allowing for a systematization of the applied dimensions of sociolinguistics. The model will also be extended beyond academia to provide the general public and migration policy makers with a tool for meta reflection on their enactment of transnational care.


Project number9043458
Grant typeGRF
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date1/01/23 → …