New Pathways:

Blog Post Seven.

The 21st Century grandmother pathway takes us through airports.

The beginning of the Research.

At the Ethnology and Folklore Department (Elphinstone Institute) of Aberdeen University, I have been looking at the experience of grandmothers today, especially those who live far away from their grandchildren. The methodology I am using is empirical, through interviews, and their subsequent analysis. My subject group are grandmothers from the so called ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. In part the research will be auto-ethnological, as I am one of the group, brought up after the war, educated, white living in one of the ‘anglo’ countries that share a historic and cultural past. This geographic choice was made because I travel to America, England and New Zealand to see my own family, and in those places I meet other grandmothers who are treading the same well worn paths. They can be seen in queues at international airports with bags full of Christmas presents for grandchildren faraway. I shall be looking at the role, or agency of grandmothers, with respect to how family ethnology: the family history, and culture is being passed on. The choice of studying grandmothers was made because being at the fulcrum of a family, grandmothers are holders and transmitters of family knowledge. Psychologists have identified that creating a good sense of identity in young people through knowledge of their family, contributes positively to mental health. (Reese 2013)

In past times if our children emigrated, there was little chance of active communication with them. Now as our ability to travel has increased, (pre covid) we are creating well trodden paths, from the UK to the countries of the Anglosphere, and I find myself part of this group. Generally, our health and reasonable pensions, mean we can be more active. We have smaller families on the whole, so we cherish the grandchildren, and are keen to have contact with them even if they live far away. If we are unable to travel, information technology is ‘zooming’ upwards, and we know ‘whatsapp’ with our families as soon as it happens.

To illuminate the phenomenon of the 21st Century grandmother, (Timonen 2019) and in part to make sense of the experience for myself, I am looking at who she is, where she comes from, and what she is doing now, with regards to the passing on of her family culture. I invite all interested parties, especially the grandmas I am meeting along the way to join me.

Cited: Timonen, Virpi, Ed.  Grandparenting Practices Around the World: Reshaping Family, (England, Bristol University Press; Policy Press, 2019).

Published by marycane

A PhD student at the Elphinstone Institute Aberdeen Scotland. I am studying the experience of being a contemporary grandmother. In particular I am interested in how those grandmothers, whose family live far away, are passing on their family history.

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