Erika Carrillo


Erika Carillo

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology 

Family caregiving, care relationships, home care, applied anthropology

Current Research Activities

My research is at the intersection of the anthropology of age, care, and food. In my ethnographic project, I explore multiple interpretations of “good” care and food. My research seeks to answer what is “good” care for aging Latinos in a changing social and urban landscape? Specifically, the project is the examination of “good” care for aging Latinos in San Francisco’s Mission District. I examine what is “good” food to care for older adults. In order to do this, I focus predominantly on eating and feeding practices in care settings such as participants’ homes, a senior center, and other places of social significance. By using food as socio-material lens, I aim to further contribute to theoretical and pragmatic understandings of “good” care for aging Latinos. I also look at how care is negotiated in the everyday lives of older adults and those in their care relationships. I am especially interested in how moments of competing values and hierarchies of care priorities come about and seeing if and how caregivers address any tensions, contradictions, and paradoxes in their care experiences.  As an applied anthropologist, I use ethnographic data collected “on the ground” and connect it to broader discussions of care, aging, and health inequalities in the California Bay Area.

Research Connections to Current Events

The state of California has a rapidly growing aging population. By 2030, the number of Californians aged 65 years and over will more than double, from 3.6 million to 8.9 million. California seniors are the fastest growing age demographic in the state. Numerous stakeholders have growing concern with how these demographic trends will impact caregiving demands for aging Californians and their families. Yet, care resources continue to be undervalued and underfunded and under-researched. The weight of care largely falls on families and their own personal care networks, and more seniors are aging in their homes. Aging does not occur in a vacuum. Understanding the diverse families and care networks of California is important to understand how to provide good care. This means examining how existing socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and gender inequalities intermingle to pose unique challenges for particularly vulnerable seniors is a essential to helping all Californians receive quality aging care. Anthropologists and critical gerontologists have noted that aging is experienced differently for people in certain neighborhoods and communities across the life course. A better understanding of inequalities is important for addressing care needs for the many diverse families in the state of California.

Personal Connections to Research

I am a Mexican American woman whose own experiences as a family caregiver for my grandmother with dementia had a deep impact on my research interests today. I have long been interested in the topic of care for older adults. Anthropology provides me with an analytical lens that can help analyze and critique cultural narratives in health care that overemphasize individual “choice” while leaving existing structural inequalities unaddressed. These are the paradoxes and dilemmas that make health and well-being complex. I understand that good, quality care for older adults will require a holistic examination of many experiences across the life course. I draw from feminist care theorists who continue to highlight the many aspects of care labor that are undervalued or overlooked entirely. I am proud to come from a long line of scholars and mentors who advocate for the value and visibility of older people, including those from marginalized groups. I see a commitment to the needs of vulnerable and diverse aging populations and their families as an ongoing social justice issue.