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Title: Parcel vans and the materiality of staying connected in Moldovan transnational families
Author: Caracentev, Sanda
ISNI:       0000 0004 9352 9316
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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Ongoing legal challenges regarding the regularisation of private van companies transporting parcels between Moldova, one of the youngest European democracies, and other EU countries, have highlighted the importance of the service’s role in Moldovan transnational life. With increased scholarly attention focused on understanding the materiality of migration and how migrants stay in touch, my research contributes to current scholarship on the material culture of migration, global mobility and transnational life by unpacking parcel-sending as an embodiment of post-departure connectedness. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in both Moldova and the UK, this thesis incorporates semi-structured interviews and case studies conducted with migrants, their families and van company employees. Building on recent literature on social remittances and the role of couriers in maintaining transnational ties, this thesis explores how the dichotomy of proximity and distance experienced by Moldovan migrants and their families left behind informs the continuing negotiation of relations between people and objects. I show how these relations are created through exchanges of parcels, looking at transnational families as ‘connected selves.’ Instead of representing a static constituent of migrant infrastructure, van companies act as important participants in supporting connectedness through emerging sending practices. In turn, these practices uncover how, similarly to the Korowai of West Papua (Stasch 2009), Moldovan transnational families create closeness through their own understanding of space-time and sensory connections. I show that, in close relation to communication technologies like Skype, parcel-sending creates co-presence, allowing these connections to persist, embodied in practices like sharing foodstuffs and redecorating dwellings. Moreover, migrants’ return visits continue to reconfigure these material connections, indicating that parcel-sending as a practice represents more than a mere ‘replacement’ of the migrant’s physical presence in the family home.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available