The Migrant Maternal: ‘Birthing’ New Lives Abroad


Price: $34.95

Page Count: 269

Publication Date: October 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77258-080-8

This edited volume explores how and why immigrant/refugee mothers’ experiences differ due to the challenges posed by the migration process, but also what commonalities underline immigrant/refugee mothers’ lived experiences. This book will add to the field of women’s studies the much-needed discussion of how immigrant and refugee mothers’ lives are dependent on cultural, environmental and socio-economic circumstances. The collection offers multiple perspectives on migrant mothering by including ethnographic and theoretical submissions along with mothers’ personal narratives and literary analyses from diverse locales: New Zealand, Japan, Canada, The United States, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands among others. The first section of the volume focuses on mothers’ roles in the family institution and the pressures and responsibilities they face in “creating” and “reproducing” families physically and socially. The second section shifts its attention to children and highlights mothers’ continued roles in the development of their children abroad, along with the gendered/generational dynamics in the settlement process and the resultant effects on motherhood responsibilities. In all chapters, readers will find how women negotiate their traditional roles in a new sociocultural milieu, and how mothering processes are critical in creating connections with traditions and homelands.

“This timely and wide-ranging volume contributes to women’s and gender studies’ multiple perspectives offered in academic and literary writing that explores immigrant/refugee mothers’ experiences from around the world. Mothers in New Zealand, Japan, Canada, The United States, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands among others, are discussed. The anthology considers both the migration processes in di- verse contexts and the commonalities and differences in migrant/refugee mothers’ lived experiences. In today’s world, filled with unprecedented human displacement across borders, it is a must-read.”
—Rebecca Bromwich, Director, Carleton University’s Graduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution Program

“This volume provides a touching collection of articles describing the lived experiences of migrant and refugee mothers, who must negotiate motherhood in the social environment of an unfamiliar host country. The articles in this volume subtly challenge sensationalist media approaches to migration, forced and otherwise, by largely avoiding narratives of victimhood. The migrant and refugee mothers presented throughout this volume are powerful and dynamic in the face of structural and language barriers and cultural dissonance. While the specific emphases and methodological approaches are diverse, they are connected by themes of feminism, motherhood and mothering, resilience, and cultural transmission. This volume makes a solid contribution to the field of women studies.”
—Amanda Veile, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Purdue University


Introduction: The Migrant Maternal
Anna Kuroczycka Schultes and Helen Vallianatos


Reproducing Punjabiyat: Family Rhetoric and Birth Control Among Indian Migrant Women in Italy
Sara Bonfanti

From Mama Africa to Papatūānuku: The Experiences of a Group of African Immigrant and Refugee-Background Mothers Living in Auckland, Aotearoa-New Zealand
Helene Connor, Irene Ayallo, and Sue Elliott

Mother Tongue as the Language of Mothering and Homing Practice in Betty Quan’s Mother Tongue and Hiromi Goto’s Chorus of Mushrooms: Survival Strategies and Identity Construction of Migrant and Refugee Mothers
Eglė Kačkutė

Perinatal Care for Immigrants in the Netherlands: A Personal Account
Theano Lianidou

Motherhood and Unemployment: Immigrant Women’s Experiences in Toronto
Leslie Nichols

Mothers at the Margins of Health: Syrian Mothers in Istanbul
Nurcan Ozgur Baklacioglu

Changing Places, Changing Bodies: Reproducing Families through Food
Helen Vallianatos


An Immigrant Mother’s “Revolt against Silence” in Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying
Justine Dymond

Isolation and Negotiation: A Case Study of Chinese Working-Class Immigrant Women’s Mothering Experiences
Yu-Ling Hsiao

Foreign Mothers, Native Children: The Impact of Language on Cultural Identity among Polish Americans in Chicago
Anna Kuroczycka Schultes

Mothering Duties Come First: Professional Immigrant Filipinas’ Career Reconstitution Dilemmas
Cirila P. Limpangog

The Extraordinariness of Ordinary Immigrant Mothers in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Writings
Rehnuma Sazzad

Attaining a Balance between Showing Sensitivity to Local Norms and Upholding the Values of the Country of Origin: The Case of a Western Mother in Japan
Meredith Stephens

Intercultural Upbringing: The Benefits of Maintaining Home Language and Culture When Raising Migrant Children
Agata Strzelecka-Misonne

Conclusion: Mothering in Diverse Migratory Contexts
Helen Vallianatos and Anna Kuroczycka Schultes

About the Contributors

Anna Kuroczycka Schultes holds a Ph.D. in English-Modern Studies and a Women’s Studies certificate from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. A former Advanced Opportunity Program Fellow at UWM, Anna’s research focuses on migrant female domestic workers, immigration, mothering and care work. Her publications have appeared, among others, in The Journal of Research on Women and Gender (2010), An Anthropology of Mothering (Demeter Press 2011), and in Anti-Immigration in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia (2011). Anna’s interest in migration is fueled by feminist research theories. Over the past several years she has been conducting research on Polish mothers in the Chicagoland area.

Helen Vallianatos is an Associate Professor in Anthropology and Associate Dean in the Office of the Dean of Students, University of Alberta. Her research and teaching interests focus on food, gender, body and health issues, and the majority of her research involves collaborative, interdisciplinary work across disciplines and with various community organizations. Much of her recent research has focused on migrant mothers’ health and well-being.