Care (Packages) in a Time of Crisis
Irish Expatriates in Germany, Transnational Sympathy and Circulation
Keywords:care packages, sharing, Irish expatriates, transnational, Germany, pandemic
This paper suggests a novel research direction in ‘Anthropology Ireland’ in which closer attention is paid to the intensification of the desire for creature comforts among the Irish expatriate community in Germany. Physical expressions of ‘care’ and travel have been hampered by the structural restrictions brought about by both COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and the departure of the UK from the European Union in Brexit. The notion that we advance is that these two crises, one a medical pandemic and the other a democratic crisis of sorts, have reshaped and reoriented Irish expatriates’ relationships to ‘home comforts’, digital and face-to-face encounters, and have distorted perceptions of/on the future. The paper is grounded in a wealth of research obtained from Irish expatriates in Germany and was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2021). This provided a unique research vantage point to examine a context in which interlocutors were adapting to the necessity for mediated electronic engagements (using video-telephony and instant messaging tools) at the same time as the researchers were. This paper contends that necessity can be birthmother to adaptation, as well as invention, necessitating the renegotiation of everyday practices for this group. This is demonstrated through a context-sensitive analysis of ‘goodies’/gift-giving, sharing (both in terms of material and experience), and ‘stashing’ as a measure of solidarity and strength in uncertain times.