Semantics and Significance in Everyday Talk and Practice: Is this Care? Am I a Carer?


  • Sally Keeling University of Otago, Christchurch



informal care, care-work, discourse, public policy


This paper offers an overview of global and local research and policy surrounding the formal and informal care of older people in New Zealand, alongside a commentary from an anthropological perspective. Particular attention is paid to the language of care, by exploring the ways that older people and their family carers talk about the various principles and actions which form part of ‘care’. The paper thus deals with both cultural semantics, and personal meaning making. Then, analysis of policy documents shows contradictory definitions of the role of ‘carer’, while also making the case that this work is undervalued, in both the informal family field, and in the labour market generally.

Author Biography

Sally Keeling, University of Otago, Christchurch

Sally Keeling was awarded her PhD by the Dept of Anthropology at the University of Otago in 1999, and she then spent the next two decades engaged in teaching and research based in the Dept of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch. Her primary field for this work has been understanding the social context of ageing in New Zealand communities, and its application into policy and service development at a national level. She has also served as an Associate Editor for Cambridge University Press, on the journal Ageing and Society since 2010.




How to Cite

Keeling, S. (2018). Semantics and Significance in Everyday Talk and Practice: Is this Care? Am I a Carer?. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 15(2).