Grandparenting and Retirement: Re-thinking Roles, Reciprocity, and Responsibility in Milan and Yaoundé


  • Shireen Walton Department of Anthropology Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Patrick Awondo Center for Social Change Gender and Discrimination Faculty of Sciences Education University of Yaoundé 1



Retirement, Grandparenting, Reciprocity, Kinship, Milan, Yaoundé, Online Communities


In this article we comparatively explore experiences and notions of retirement in two ethnographic sites of Milan, Italy, and Yaoundé, Cameroon, by paying attention to how grandparenting is perceived and practiced in relation to kinship roles and responsibilities. The paper draws on comparative insights from the ASSA project and focuses on Walton’s research in Milan and Awondo’s in Yaoundé, carried out between 2018–2019. The paper explores how both retirement and grandparenting can be embedded in social and moral narratives, gendered distinctions, and various idealisations, while also reflecting individual positionalities and economic roles and responsibilities. Our discussion moves beyond the family context as a unit for analysis, considering how grandparents enact care in urban communities and related online environments such as WhatsApp groups. After a brief introduction to the two field sites, the first section of the paper addresses retirement in Milan and Yaoundé, before turning to consider how grandparenting and retirement is linked to wider conceptions of obligation and freedom in these two different urban neighbourhood contexts.


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