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Linked Lives

Elder Care, Migration, and Kinship in Sri Lanka

When youth shake off their rural roots and middle-aged people migrate for economic opportunities, what happens to the grandparents left at home? Linked Lives provides readers with intimate glimpses into homes in a Sri Lankan Buddhist village, where elders wisely use their moral authority and their control over valuable property to assure that they receive both physical and spiritual care when they need it. The care work that grandparents do for grandchildren allows labor migration and contributes to the overall well-being of the extended family. The book considers the efforts migrant workers make to build and buy houses and the ways those rooms and walls constrain social activities. It outlines the strategies elders employ to age in place, and the alternatives they face in local old folks’ homes. Based on ethnographic work done over a decade, Michele Gamburd shows how elders face the challenges of a rapidly globalizing world.

Author Information

MICHELE RUTH GAMBURDis professor of anthropology at Portland State University, Oregon.


" Linked Lives is an insightful and valuable book on the complex ties between migration, care, and aging. Michele Ruth Gamburd traces malleable lives and livelihoods that need to be recast in the context of shifting economies and social relations, confronting the risks and rewards associated with them. Her work will be an important resource for researchers, students, and readers in challenging times when care, migration, and social ties are being tested across the world."
— Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, author of As the World Ages: Rethinking a Demographic Crisis

"A deeply localized and richly depicted narrative of aging in Sri Lanka. Gamburd skillfully situates the processes of how families care for elder loved ones within the wide, global context of aging in the twenty-first century. As a result, Linked Lives’novel insights about aging in Sri Lanka create a highly engaging and valuable case study, applicable to many similar places in the global south facing rapid population aging."
— Benjamin Capistrant, associate professor, Smith College

Audience: College/higher education;