In Search of Project Marigold: Bespoke Fantasies of Independence and Dependent Sociality in Ubud, Bali.

Dr Paul Green2

2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Studies of international retirement migration (IRM) often highlight the role of cross-border mobility in facilitating third age experiences of successful, active and DIY aging. Here, I examine how later-life foreigners living in Ubud, Bali, think about and strategise life course transitions towards a fourth age. Focusing on third to fourth age transitions, I suggest, reveals ways in which historically and biographically constituted understandings of personhood are nourished in the social, cultural and economic context of specific retirement destinations in Asia. In this, we see how later-life foreigners develop individualised life projects in Bali, through virtues of geoarbitrage and privileged access to material and human resources. Drawing on an illustrative ethnographic example I highlight the ways in which such resources both support and compromise attempts by foreign residents to gain personal yet collaborative control over their future self’s engagement with care and support in later life. On one hand, the availability of local drivers, domestic servants and informal care workers encourages what I term as a bespoke fantasy of independence that extends over time into an everyday world of physical immobility, chronic health concerns and limited financial resources. At the same time, this individualised fantasy of personhood feeds into yet complicates a desire to find a sense of security and belonging in entrepreneurial imaginings of dependent sociality and small-scale retirement spaces. The elusive search for Project Marigold, I argue, reveals the creative and contradictory limitations of bespoke individualism in later life, with some residents left to fear and contemplate a potential return one day to institutionalised care in their homelands.


Paul Green is a social anthropologist in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is involved in two long-term ethnographic projects, where he focuses on the life experiences of international retirees and digital nomads, respectively, based in or moving through Southeast Asia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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